Examples on Using a Yoga Wedge
Wrist pain or strain can be a real challenge in yoga practice. Read on to learn more about why our wrists can add to a challenge of a pose and what we can do about it. Using your fists, a chair, yoga blocks or a yoga wedge are just some of your options to get relief. Placing the heel of your hand on the wedge helps reduce the angle of extension in your wrists or the pressure placed on your wrists.
We sell both foam yoga wedges and cork yoga wedges. Both offer a soft and grippy texture.
We ask our wrists for strength and fexibility in yoga. Here are some pointers for keeping these complex joints safe and for rehabbing them if they’ve been strained.
By Julie Gudmestad / Yoga Journal
Almost every yoga class includes one or two people who complain of wrist problems. Perhaps their difficulties began with long hours at a computer keyboard, or with a hard fall on an outstretched hand, or even with doing asanas. Whatever the cause, the problem may be exacerbated by bearing weight on the hands in yoga.
Yet such weight bearing is a very important part of asana practice. If you’ve ever had a wrist problem, you know how much it can interfere with your yoga. Wrist injuries can be especially demoralizing if you prefer a vinyasa-based style, in which you place weight on the hands over and over again as you flow through the classic Sun Salutation series—which includes Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). If your wrists are strained, such asanas can cause you pain and further injury. Fortunately, a careful and gradual approach to increasing wrist flexibility and strength can help most students avoid problems—or rehabilitate the wrist if necessary.
A Vulnerable Marvel
Weight bearing on the arms seems to bring out the wrist’s vulnerability. After all, the wrist is a relatively small joint, and a lot of rather delicate tissues are packed into this small area. These tissues include ligaments that knit the wrist bones together, as well as tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the fingers and help give the fingers their remarkable dexterity. Strain or irritation in these tendons can be a major factor in wrist pain.
To understand what causes this kind of pain, it’s useful to consider the structure and function of a normal wrist. The wrist helps with control of the fine motor activities of the fingers and thumb by positioning and stabilizing the hand, which allows us to accomplish uniquely human endeavors like writing, drawing, and sewing. Most of the wrist’s movement occurs at the juncture of the radius (one of the two forearm bones) and several of the carpal bones, which sit deep in the heel of the hand. Some movement also occurs at the junctures between the individual carpal bones.
The movements of the wrist include abduction (bending the thumb side of the hand toward the thumb side of the forearm), adduction (bending the little-finger side of the hand toward the little-finger side of the forearm), flexion, and extension. In yoga, by far the most important of these—and probably the one most likely to bring you grief—is extension. To feel this wrist movement, sit in a chair with armrests and position one of your forearms on an armrest, palm facing the floor. Cock your hand up, pointing your fingers toward the ceiling. Your wrist is now in extension. If you let your hand drape over the end of the armrest and your fingers point toward the floor, your wrist will be in flexion.
Most likely, you spend a lot of time every day with your wrist in mild extension. The hand has its most powerful grip in this alignment, and this position is the one we use most often in daily activities. So your wrist probably spends very little time in full flexion or full extension. Since the wrist, like any joint, will lose any part of its range of motion that isn’t used regularly, most people gradually lose the ability to move easily and safely into full wrist extension (a 90-degree angle between the hand and forearm).
But as soon as you take a yoga pose in which you bear most or all of your weight on your hands, you demand extension from your wrists. Several of the postures in Sun Salutation—Plank, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana—require full extension, so performing the series over and over can put a cumulatively heavy load on the wrists. Arm balances like Bakasana (Crane Pose) and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) add insult to injury by pressing all of your body weight into your wrists while they are fully extended. Combining extreme range of motion with a heavy load and multiple repetitions can easily add up to strain.
Under such conditions, it shouldn’t be too surprising if the wrists send up a red flag: pain. I believe that a substantial part of yoga practitioners’ wrist pain is caused by soft-tissue strain that occurs when the ligaments and tendons are forced into extension beyond their customary range.
If your wrists have become sore from practicing poses in which you bear weight on your hands, you may need to eliminate these poses for a while to allow the inflamed tissues to heal. It will probably take several weeks for the pain and soreness to subside; then you can begin a program of gently stretching the wrists and gradually reintroducing weight bearing.
Before resuming the poses that require 90 degrees of extension—or before embarking on them, if you’re a beginning yoga practitioner—it’s a good idea to check the range of extension of your wrists. You can do this by coming to your hands and knees with the heels of your hands directly under your shoulders. Your wrists are now at 90 degrees of extension. Are they completely comfortable in this position? If not, you should work to gently and gradually increase your wrist extension.
An easy way to do this is to put your hands together in Namaste (Prayer Position) in front of your chest. Keeping the heels of your hands together and your fingers pointing up, gently press your hands down toward your waist. Don’t let the heels of your hands come apart; if you do, you’ll lose the wrist stretch. If you regularly hold this stretch for a minute or two as part of your daily routine, you’ll gradually be able to move the wrists into deeper extension.
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