Learn yoga pose variations to build strength in your upper body while protecting your wrists from pain or healing from an injury.
Staring down from the top of a crowded mountain strapped into my board, I knew there was a risk I could get injured. I glided half way down before someone cut in front of me and I fell, bracing myself with my hands. I tore the cartilage in my right wrist from snowboarding and could no longer bear weight on my hands. For nine months, I wore a brace and eventually ended up having surgery.
As a yoga student and instructor, I knew this was going to shape my practice immensely. I could no longer do poses that are common in vinyasa classes, like downward dog (adho mukha svanasana), plank (phalakasana) and low plank (chaturanga). Rather than viewing my injury as a limitation, I realized it was an opportunity to expand my practice, learn how to modify and share my knowledge with students.
Wrist injuries are common in snowboarding, skating, basketball and other contact sports. Repetitive motions like typing on a keyboard and using power tools can also cause injuries. Osteoporosis and other types of arthritis can lead to wrist pain and limited mobility.
The wrist is a complex structure with eight small carpal bones, the forearm radius and ulna bones, plus many tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels. Injuring your wrist may require rest, wearing braces, physical therapy or surgery.
While this can feel discouraging, there are modifications you can make to your yoga practice to continue building upper body strength without bearing weight on your wrists. I put together a yoga sequence with poses you can do with blocks, making fists or on your forearms. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor or physical therapist before practicing yoga or exercising.
You can read more about the yoga variations from the video below.
Place blocks underneath your hands in downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana), cobra (bhujangasana) or upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana)
Foam blocks or wedges elevate the ground, reducing pressure on your wrists and providing cushion under your hands
Make Fists With Your Hands:
Curl your fingers and make fists with your hands in plank (phalakasana), low plank (chaturanga) and cobra (bhujangasana)
Making fists stabilizes the joints and avoids flexion and extension in your wrists
You can also place sturdy dumbbells underneath your shoulders and wrap your fingers around the bar instead of making fists
Flow and Build Strength On Your Forearms:
Plant your forearms on the mat with your shoulders aligned over your elbows. Your fingers can be spread wide and pointing forward shoulder width apart or you can clasp your hands together
On your forearms, you can practice a flow with your breath:
Exhale, walk your feet forward, lift your hips and lengthen your spine, coming into dolphin pose (ardha pincha mayurasana)
Inhale and walk your feet back into a forearm plank (phalakasana II). Align your shoulders over your elbows and squeeze your core and glutes
Exhale, lower your hips down to the mat and plant the tops of your feet down
Inhale, squeeze your glutes and lift up from your chest for sphinx pose (salamba bhujangasana)
Exhale, walk your feet forward, lift your hips and lengthen your spine, returning to dolphin pose (ardha pincha mayurasana)
You can also practice side plank on your forearms (vasisthasana) by rotating your arm parallel to the top of your mat, stacking your hips and using your bottom leg for support or balancing the legs one on top of the other
To further strengthen the upper back and shoulders, you can place a block in between your hands, wrapping your thumbs and index fingers around the bottom and sides of the block. Come into dolphin pose (ardha pincha mayurasana) and practice lifting and lowering each leg, prepping for forearm stand (pincha mayurasana)
Poses on your forearms help strengthen the back, shoulders and core muscles, but should be done with caution if you’re experiencing a shoulder injury
Preventing pain or recovering from an injury requires time and patience. It can be an opportunity to listen to your body, try new variations of poses and grow stronger.
Please reach out or leave me a comment below and let me know how this yoga sequence felt. I am here to support you, answer questions and guide you through a safe practice. If you found the yoga sequence helpful, make sure to share it with your friends and family.