The Link: Core Strength and Wrist Pain
In our yoga practice we use our wrists a lot. If you think of the first time you did yoga, your wrists probably hurt a lot. That’s because people tend to put all of their body weight on the wrists when doing Downward-Facing Dog, Plank, Arm Balances, etc. Weight bearing exercises build our bones so by putting extra weight on our wrists, we strengthen them but if we over exercise or put too much pressure on our wrists, we are at risk of injury. The key to keeping healthy wrists in our yoga practice is to distribute our weight evenly between our whole body, not just tip it all onto our wrists.
Let’s take Downward Facing Dog for example. I personally found it really hard in the beginning to hold the pose for 10 breaths. The pain in my wrists was excruciating. I had to rethink my whole practice. Following the expert advice of my teachers, I started pushing my weight back into my legs and I engaged my core more. In this way my body weight was evenly distributed between wrists, core and legs and my wrists didn’t have to suffer anymore. The same goes for many other poses. The key is balance and even body weight distribution.
Weak core can also wreak havoc on your wrists. If you have problems with your wrists, weak core might be to blame. The first steps to minimizing wrist injuries is strengthening our core and learning to engage it. When properly engaged, our core is a powerful bundle of energy that can not only help us master some of the most challenging poses in the asana practice but also take the burden off our wrists. Here are some core-strengthening exercises to help:
- Spinal rolls: spinal rolls are a great warm-up exercise waking up the whole spine and all the muscles in the body particularly the core. From Downward Facing Dog come the highest you can on your tiptoes and very slowly roll into Plank and from there transition into a variation of Upward Facing Dog by resting your legs on the floor and look up. Then slowly engage your core, arch your back and lift with your core back into Plank and Downward Facing Dog. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Knee to Chest: knee to chest is another great routine to get your core active. From Downward Facing Dog lift your right leg up into Three-Legged Dog and then slowly bring your right knee into your chest, arch the back and engage the core. Do not tip all of your weight on your wrists. The wrists are there to support the structure of the asana, not to bear the weight. Let the core do the dirty job for you. Hold for 5 breaths and return to Three-Legged Dog.
- Knee to Elbow with a Twist: from Three-Legged Dog, bring your right leg into your right elbow and then try to move your knee all the way to your right armpit and back down to your right wrist. Move the knee up and down from the armpit to the wrist for 5 breaths and then repeat the same with the left leg. Always engage your core!
- Plank: plank can be a total body workout in itself. When coming into Plank, remember to push the weight into your heels and slightly draw your shoulder blades apart. This would take away pressure from the wrists. Remember to engage your core!
- Opposite Elbow to Knee: lie down on the mat, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the mat hip-width apart. Lower back is flat on the mat. Lift your shins up so that knees are on top of hips and shins are parallel to the mat. Place your hands behind your head and lift our shoulders and head off the mat. Keeping the knees directly over the hips, slowly bring the right elbow to left knee and then right elbow to left knee. Repeat 10 times on each side for that extra burn in the core.
To help our wrists support us in our life on and off the mat we need to properly warm them up and strengthen them on a daily basis. Here is how:
- Come on all fours, shoulders over wrists, hips over knees. Bring your palms to face up with the fingers pointing towards your legs. Gently rock backwards and forwards and only go as far as your wrists let you without feeling any sharp pain.
- Come in the same position on all fours, palms facing up again but this time the fingers are pointing towards the opposite hand. Extend the fingers and then fold them into a fist. Unfold them flat on the mat and roll them into a fist again. Repeat 5 times.
- Come on all fours, your hands tight in a fist. Unfold the fists and extend the fingers on the mat and then fold them back again into a fist. Repeat 5 times.
- Wrist roll: bring your hands into a prayer. Bring the prayer to face down and reverse it by rolling the wrists. Repeat until all pops and clicks are out of your wrists.