Plank Pose or Phalakasana using your forearms for support instead of using your wrists

Wrist Pain in Yoga: Here’s How to Alleviate It

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Updated: 
January 13, 2022

Wrist pain in yoga can feel truly debilitating. In modern-style practices, we tend to spend the majority of class time bearing weight in our arms.

From ubiquitous poses like Plank Pose (Phalakasana) and Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) to more specialized arm balances and inversions, our wrists take on a lot of work in a classic practice. So wrist pain can make it seem like practicing yoga is impossible.

But it doesn’t need to be that way! There are countless ways that you can modify your practice to manage wrist pain in yoga. From the classic adjustments to more complex, strength-building options, there is a way to modify the practice that will work for you.

Try These 5 Modifications When You Have Wrist Pain in Yoga

Some of these options require fancy props. Others, you can do with just a little bit of extra effort.

1. Yoga Props

Yoga props ready for yoga lessonProps are every yogi’s best friend—especially those who suffer from wrist pain in yoga! And there are so many excellent tools you can use to help reduce wrist pain in your practice. 

A yoga wedge is a perfect solution if full extension is challenging or painful for your wrists. If you don’t have one, a rolled-up yoga mat can help to do the trick too!

Placing blocks underneath your hands in weight-bearing positions like Plank Pose or Downward Facing Dog Pose can also help immensely to shift the load out of your wrists and into your legs to alleviate any extra tension.

You can also practice any weight-bearing pose over a yoga bolster and focus on lifting the heels of your hands (rather than collapsing into them). This will activate your wrist flexors while they’re in a lengthened position which can be very challenging but may also help to alleviate excessive strain on your wrists.

2. Switch Up Your Arms

Plank Pose or Phalakasana using your forearms for support instead of using your wristsYou can still bear weight in your arms without affecting your wrists at all if you want! Practice on fists with a neutral angle in your wrists or lower your forearms to the floor in your weight-bearing shapes.

You don’t have to give up your Plank and Downward Facing Dog poses if you don’t want to! Just practice Forearm Plank Pose (Ardha Phalakasana) (above) and Dolphin Pose (Catur Svanasana) instead! You still get all the strength training you’re craving for your upper body, but without the extra load on your sore wrists.

3. Hand Lock (Hasta Bandha)

Hasta bandha or the hand lock can greatly help to reduce wrist pain in yoga because it works to activate the surrounding musculature of your forearms to share the load of weight-bearing. When you practice hasta bandha, think about subtlety rather than excessive contractions. Stay relaxed within the activation.

  1. Start in Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasan) on a yoga mat.

  2. Spread your fingers and space them evenly apart. 

  3. Root down into the perimeter of your palms and gently grip at the mat with your fingertips. 

  4. Practice in a low-load position (like on all fours) before progressing to add more weight (as in Plank Pose). All the while, keep the activation you created.

4. Wrist Eccentrics

Sometimes, we get wrist pain in yoga because the musculature surrounding the wrists isn’t strong enough to support the loads we demand of them. Just like you’d strengthen other muscles in the body, sometimes the flexors and extensors of the wrists need some strengthening as well.

But because we often demand our wrists to be in extreme positions in yoga (like maximum extension in poses like Plank Pose), it’s often wise to strengthen them in their lengthened position since this is how we use these muscles in our practice.

So grab a dumbbell and start to work your wrist flexors and extensors by gently flexing and extending your wrists under load. You might be surprised by how hard it can be, but also how quickly you might feel changes in these tissues. 

5. Practice Hands-Free!

Practicing yoga (Warrior 1) while giving your arms and wrists a restWhen wrist pain in yoga gets to be too much to bear, you don’t have to give up your yoga practice completely! Instead, you can simply practice hands-free. This is especially useful for big flare-up days when your wrists just need a break.

There are so many postures in yoga that you can focus on that don’t require any weight-bearing in the arms at all. Practice lunges and warriors, balance poses and prone or supine backbends. Mix up your practice to get creative in poses where you don’t need to load your wrists at all!

Say Goodbye to Wrist Pain in Yoga With These Simple Modifications

Although wrist pain is quite common in yoga, it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying your practice! 

Use these simple modifications to adapt your practice as needed to keep your practice strong and your wrists happy. 

 

Baxter Bell MD, IAYT, yoga teacher, YogaUOnline presenter, Yoga for Covid Long Haulers

 

Leah SugermanLeah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.