One of the most common complaints among new yoga students is wrist pain. But even seasoned yogis are not immune: Because the wrists are one of the weaker parts of the body, they are prone to injuries. Whether you spend a lot of time on the yoga mat or typing away on the computer, chances are your wrists experience some wear and tear.
Unfortunately, wrist injuries happen more often during yoga than you’d think, especially in dynamic styles such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga. Think of typical postures like Downward Facing Dog, Chaturanga, or Planks and you’ll realize how much weight the hands and wrists have to carry during your yoga practice. The wrists are fully extended in these postures, which puts stress on the soft tissue, especially the tendons. If these asanas aren’t done safely, they can lead to overload, strain, and even injury.
But there are ways to manage wrist pain – most importantly learning how to use Hasta Bandha correctly.
What are Bandhas?
A Bandha is a lock or bind. In yoga, Bandhas are performed in order to direct the flow of life force energy to certain areas of the body. There are three major Bandhas called Mula Bandha (Root Lock), Uddiyana Bandha (Diaphragm Lock), and Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock). Combined, they form Maha Bandha, the great lock. These Bandhas have been used by ancient yogis to promote the flow of prana and maintain optimal health.
The minor Bandhas are Hasta Bandha (Hand Lock) and Pada Bandha (Foot Lock). While they are not considered classic Bandhas, Hasta and Pada Bandha are essential for creating stability and preventing injuries.
Hasta Bandha: The Hand Lock
In postures that require the hands to hold some or all of your body weight, engage Hasta Bandha. This “hand lock” prevents wrist strain because the body’s weight is spread evenly through the hand, using the palm’s natural arch to balance the pressure.
- Align your wrists underneath the shoulders and position your hands so that the middle finger points forward.
- Spread your fingers wide, creating space in between. Focus especially on spreading the index finger and thumb away from each other, creating an “L” shape.
- Root down through the four corners of the hands and fingers. Emphasize pressing the pads of the thumb and index finger into the mat. These are your primary pressure points. Firmly ground the rest of your fingertips into the mat. Imagine you’re trying to curl your fingers into a claw. These are your secondary pressure points.
- Energetically pull upwards through the center of your palms. This creates an upward lift through the arms, taking pressure off the wrists.
5 Tips to Prevent Wrist Pain in Yoga
If you experience frequent wrist pain in yoga, engaging Hasta Bandha might not be enough. Read our five bonus tips on how to protect, strengthen, and support your wrists for a healthy practice.
1. Warm Up Your Wrists
This is a simple yet crucial step that many of us tend to neglect. Warming up improves the lubrication of joints, relaxes the muscles, and improves blood flow, thus preparing the body for more demanding asanas. Just like we prepare our spine and neck at the beginning of our practice, we have to warm up our wrists to prevent injuries. The simplest wrist warm-up is the wrist circle. To do this, make fists with your hands and gently circle your wrists first in one direction, then in the other.
2. Practice with Proper Alignment
Creating a stable foundation is key for preventing injuries, including wrist injuries. If you are unsure about the right alignment in certain postures, pick up an anatomy book or ask your yoga teacher for advice.
In addition to your Hasta Bandha, you can increase the weight-bearing ability of your arms by creating two opposing spirals. Firmly press the thumb and the base of the index finger into the floor. This creates an internal rotation of the forearms. Then, spiral the shoulders back for external rotation of the upper arms.
It’s also important to balance the distribution of your weight. In Downward Facing Dog, for example, experiment with shifting your weight more into your heels, rather than your hands.
3. Build Wrist Strength
When done carefully, weight-bearing asanas like Chaturanga Dandasana actually help you build strong, healthy wrists. Practicing Sun Salutations slowly and mindfully is a great way to build up strength and flexibility in your wrists.
Before you work on strengthening your wrists, remember everything you read earlier in this article: Practice with correct alignment, don’t skip the warm-up before your strength practice, and never push yourself into places of pain.
4. Strengthen Your Core
What does core strength have to do with protecting our wrists? Many asanas that put pressure on our wrists also require an active, engaged core. If our core is weak, we tend to shift our body weight forward, leaning into the wrists. This pushes the wrists into even deeper extension, with a much greater risk of strain.
Great asanas to strengthen your core muscles without wrist-strain are Navasana (Boat Pose), Shalabasana (Locust Pose), and Forearm Planks.
5. Listen to Your Body
Frequent wrist pain is a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored! If you listen to your body’s signs and take action early on by giving it a rest or seeing a physician if necessary, you can prevent injury and chronic pain.
While your wrists are feeling sore or recovering from injury, avoid putting them under a lot of stress. That doesn’t mean you have to stop your yoga practice! Simply opt for wrist-free yoga classes which exclude postures that could strain your wrists. If you still want to join regular classes at your local studio, modify: lower down to your elbows in Downward Facing Dog or (Side) Plank and drop your knees for a modified Chaturanga.
Do you have a wrist, hand, or elbow injury? Don’t give up on your practice! Try Wrist-Free Yoga Classes in our Online Studio. Click here to sign up – your first 30 days are free!