Avoiding Wrist Pain in Yoga

Are you struggling with wrist pain when you practice? A number of people experience wrist pain, due to a variety of causes like typing at a computer all day or even from yoga practice itself. But you don’t have to quit. Many poses can be modified to reduce their weight-bearing aspects or replaced altogether by a different pose that provides the same sensation without the pain.

Here are a few tricks:

  1. Shift your weight.

Rather than supporting yourself by connecting your palms to the mat, you could try balling your hands into fists instead. By doing this, you simultaneously take the pressure off of your wrists while also strengthening them. If this causes pressure in your shoulders though, try lowering onto your forearms. These changes are especially effective in poses like Plank, Downward Dog, and Side Angle.

2. Change your angle.

Using a foam wedge or a folded towel, raising the wrist and heel of your hands higher than the fingertips, with the angle between your forearm and hand greater than 90-degrees, can help to reduce or eliminate wrist pain.

3. Try a different surface.

If you’re using a thickly cushioned mat for the sake of your hips, knees, and spine, it might not be helping your wrists. Practicing on thick mats or even on carpets allows for too much give, where the heels of the hands can sink into the softer surface and decreasing the angle of the wrist and adding additional pressure. You could try a thinner mat on a hard surface, like you’d find in most yoga studios.

4. Use a prop.

Props are our friends. Blocks or even a chair can help tremendously. By essentially “raising the floor,” you an greatly reduce the stress on the hands and wrists. You can place a block under each hand for added support.

5. Bend your knees.

Bending the knees, or even taking them all the way to the floor, can greatly reduce the strain on hands and wrists. It still requires support and strength in the wrists, but not nearly as much. This is called “shortening the lever,” and reducing the amount of weight needing to be balanced on the wrists.

6. Be mindful of your connection to the mat.

Here is a great graphic I found a few years ago that guided me in my own hand placement and connection to the mat. It has helped my wrists immensely to use my hands consciously this way.

7. Stretch and strengthen.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid wrist pain is to stretch and strengthen your wrists. A strong core and arms will keep you from collapsing into your hands and forcing your wrists to bear the brunt of your body weight, as well.

8. Try varying your flow sequences.

Changing up your flows so they include plenty of postures that don’t require putting weight on your wrists.

9. Most importantly, listen to your body.

If a posture is causing pain – not the “burn” we search for in a good work out, but pain- do you what you need to do to reduce the strain. With wrist pain, you should most likely avoid arm balancing poses, like crow.

Did you find any of these tips helpful? What other things have you done to avoid wrist pain during yoga or exercise?