Yoga tones your thighs and abs, makes your back more flexible and lowers your killer stress level. A regular practice could leave you in glowing good health. But even something so basic as a Sun Salutation can aggravate weak wrists or a hand or wrist injury. The body weight that is so good for resistance can cause pain in your hands and wrists when a pose is out of alignment or you've already strained them in daily activities.
Flick of the Wrist
If you spend hours everyday working on a computer or in repetitive motion activities, break a fall on the ice rink with your hands, or hang out too long in Plank pose, pain could curtail your yoga practice. The sharpest hand or wrist pain is most noticeable in your wrists. The wrist is a vulnerable joint that gets a constant workout. It's a channel for the ligaments and tendons that allows your hand and arm enormous range of movement and your fingers to perform complex activities. How you position your hands in yoga poses affects the stress on your wrists. Some yoga poses are hard on the wrists and hands. Once you have a sprain, a stress fracture or a soft tissue injury that results in inflammation, you have to take preventive measures to allow the soreness to heal and to rebuild strength and flexibility.
Yoga moves that can aggravate injured or tender wrists and hands range from easier to advanced poses. You're likely to encounter the challenge no matter what your level of practice. Sun Salutation places repeated stress on your arms as you move in and out of body-weight-bearing poses like Downward-Facing Dog, Four-Limbed Staff pose and Plank. Handstand, Bridge, Crane, Cobra, Locust and Scorpion require strong, stable wrists and hands, as do Firefly pose, Wheel pose, Peacock pose and both versions of the Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya. When you're coming off an injury to your wrists, fingers or hands, avoid these poses or use modified versions that shift any weight bearing to your torso and legs. Some poses can be adapted by using props, like a table surface or yoga blocks, to change hand position or your center of gravity.
Build strength in wrists and hands so you can safely execute all of the poses in your practice. "Yoga Journal" suggests starting with a tightly clenched fist and slowly circling the fist nine times clockwise and then counterclockwise. Then stretch your hand wide open with your thumb and pinkie as far apart as they will reach. Shake out your hand and wrist loosely and do the other hand. Take a break at your desk and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place both hands flat on the desk, perfectly aligned with wrists facing away from you. Lean lightly on your hands for 15 to 30 seconds for a gentle stretch. Try pushing the pads of your fingers, rather than the heels of your hands, into your yoga mat to relieve pressure on your hands and soften the angle of wrist extension..
Carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t have to end your yoga practice but it is cause for concern. The injury occurs when the median nerve that runs from your forearm to your thumb and fingers is pinched by the carpal bones and ligaments in your wrist. The inflammation is debilitating and will dictate your ability to do any poses that put weight on your arms and hands. You should back off those poses and work with your doctor to diagnose and treat the problem. But one of the treatments could be yoga. In a study published by the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” the director of an Iyengar yoga studio outlined a successful program for treating carpal tunnel with twice weekly yoga and relaxation sessions.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .