Whenever something is hurting or bothering me, instead of addressing the issue or allowing some self-care so that I can heal faster, I have a tendency to either ignore it or just avoid using that certain arm or shoulder that is hurting. I know that the same is true for many of my yoga students. I have a few who have wrist issues and I will offer them options whenever we come into Downward Facing Dog. Instead of placing all of their weight on their hands, I will give them the option of either working on externally rotating their shoulders or coming into Dolphin pose with their forearms on the ground so that less strain is applied to the hands and wrists. Because the sensations can be so intolerable for some, they will quickly come out of the pose and say that they just have bad wrists.
I had a teacher who said that there is no such thing as bad knees and I feel the same goes for wrists, there is no such thing! When they come back to class again, they are faced with the same thing over again. In some cases, going to yoga class may be the only time that their wrists ever get that kind of full extension and strengthening. Obviously, this should be done on a much more regular basis. One way to ensure self care for your wrists is by giving them some attention by doing some simple and easy to do exercises that can be done without props or in your office. Check out the Yoga Tune Up® Quickfix video for Hands, Wrists and Elbows for some quick relieving exercises. The next time that you walk into class you can show your yoga teacher or even some of the other students with “bad wrists” what you did to rid yourself of pain.
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Thank you for saying there is no such thing as bad knees and wrists. I often hear from people that they have bad hips. It’s not a matter of good vs. bad. It’s a matter of helping people find options that support stretching or strengthening the body in a way that feels accessible even if it is uncomfortable. In doing this people maintain a connection to their body that supports both awareness and change.
This post made me think of a recent comment from Jill about the harmful effects of disowning or criticizing parts of ourselves. I agree that labeling any of our body parts as “bad” is something we want to avoid.
Indeed, using pain as a indicator of a problem is like waiting for the light in your car to illuminate telling you to change your oil. We
Must practice daily maintenance to protect our vessel. Better to using leading indicators such as do I have full flexion and extension in the wrists, than do I have pain.
Admittedly I only notice how tight my forearms are and how limited it leaves my wrists when I get a 10 minute chair massage and everytime my lower arm and hand gets kneaded it feels like the first time EVER that the area has been cared for. 5 minutes a day for likely a world of difference in this area. Thanks for this!
I would say that while you are still able to apply pressure on your wrists with little to no pain but when you do certain motions, it brings upon pain, most likely where you sustained your injury has not completely healed. Our body definitely has ways of compensating when we continue to do a certain motion over and over again. If your wrist has not completely healed and it still hurts, I would recommend doing the Quickfix for hands and wrists. Using the Yoga Tune Up therapy balls may be also helpful to explore the wrist, forearm and even shoulder area, as the body may be carrying some of the tension/burden up into those areas as well. Lastly, if you are still not finding relief, a hand and wrist physical therapist may be the solution to address what is going on. I would not stay comfortable in the fact that if it doesn’t hurt, you should avoid it, your body is clever in finding ways to continue to do a certain motion and masking the pain until the day you begin to feel pain in your forearm, elbow or shoulder. Good luck to you…
I had a mountain biking fall and have been battling with my left wrist since. At first I took the sam approach of letting it be and not putting any pressure on that wrist but after a week or so of not doing yoga, I got fed up and went back into my regular practice. I was surprised to find that my wrist was able to sustain all the arm balances/inversions without a problem. I have kept practicing on this wrist for the duration of the summer and though it definitely feels better there are still some motions that bring in some pain so I am not sure if this too will go away in time or if I am just masking a more serious injury…
Everything changes, and bad wrists can certainly become better with such great exercises as the one demonstrated in the video. That said, if inflammation is already present, going into the pain is most likely not smart. Better to work on mobility and strength, until that down dog starts wagging its happy tail again.
Very interesting article and debate about “avoiding, wrists, and good or bad joints!” I totally agree with Tia about the idea that the majority of wrist problems today come from our interaction with technology and habits of contemporary life. I personally injured both my wrists because of my video editing extra full time job. Yoga practice helped me tremendously and during my injury recovery time I definitely did a lot of modifications in my poses and I slowly regained strength and flexibility. It is key not to avoid poses that have the capacity to cure us, but we should do those to our extent, listening to our bodies and doing the modifications our teachers suggest. Also I think that teachers should consider including some wrist exercises in their warm up sequences . It is crucial to warm our wrists up properly from the beginning to help create a healthier practice.
It seems as if more and more students are presenting in class that need wrist modifications. Hmmm, do you think it’s all the vinyasas everyone if doing! I know that YTU does not utilize this transition, however, we have to understand that we have clients that are doing other types of yoga classes and they are doing a lot of chautarangas and downward facing dogs and most likely with poor movement patterns and the like! I do agree giving the dolphin option helps and it also helps to free up the shoulders with some flossing and getting people to realize that finding strength and flexibility proximally (shoulders) will help to decrease strain on the distal aspects of our body (wrists and hands).
It’s interesting how many of us, especially as new students, believe there are prerequisites in the body for yoga. That we were at some point supposed to have already learned and processed the openness of yoga asana in the body at some point before our first class. Half the challenge is learning what version of each pose works for you in this body in this moment, and going from there. I’ve also found a lot of wrist challenges in students, and an additional modification I use for Downward-Facing Dog is rolling the mat or a blanket and placing them under the wrists so they are elevated away from the mat. This encourages the palm and fingers to share the weight burden and really root into the floor in order to extend up and back in the hips. If that is too much, I agree that Dolphin pose is constructive and allows the wrists a rest, and if you try YTU’s Dolphin Supinate by spinning the forearms and palms to face the sky you encourage proper shoulder alignment too.
I have a tendency of inflaming the fibrous tissues encasing my carpals and thus get carpal tunnel syndrome. It always happens after keeping my wrists flexed for long periods of time typing on the computer or doing one too many sun salutations. I have found this hand and finger extension exercise in Jill’s video, along with Yoga Tune Up ball massage and exercises an effective way to alleviate the pain.
Thanks Tia for your article. The title itself is so meaningful. However, most of the human beings, try to avoid pain although that may be the very area they need to deal with, physically, mentally or emotionally. The YTU training systematically teaches the teachers to go step by step and warm up the very muscles needed in the Yoga pose, so that we confront and deal with the situation which we might have avoided in the past. Many of the poses are created and executed in the mental framework of “Out of the box” to offer more time in the warm ups to prepare the muscles to then execute the pose, in the manner which is effective and efficient at the same time.
I think we all need to pamper our wrist daily. Thanks for pointing out the alternative to support our wrist. I sometime feel uncomfortable at my wrist at downward facing dog.
I enjoy the short video.
I like the idea of giving people options; it’s a nice alternative to opting out of a pose or a move. Thank you for giving us strategires for starting small and building up strength.
Jessica…thank you for your comment and for reflecting on your experience as well. I think that you make a great statement with regards to your situation from having done competitive sports and that resulted in “bad” knees due to overuse of the joint and muscles surrounding that area. What you state is true with regards to the knees, but I feel that for the wrists, unless a student was a competitive gymnast or in your case, a competitive athlete, most wrist issues are due to the continued way that we hold our wrists (texting, driving, typing, video games). So that when a student comes into class and tries to do downward dog and says that they have “bad” wrists, I would have to challenge that and ask them how they hold their wrists during a majority of the day. “Bad” wrists is probably a strong word and maybe “challenged” or even just overused/underused joints may be more fitting. Again, thank you for your insight!
Firstly, I must agree that “just because it hurts, it doesn’t mean you should avoid it” but I challenge the blanket statement that there’s no such thing as bad knees or wrists. After many years of competitive cross country and soccer, my knees had certainly gone “bad.” I couldn’t sit with bent knees without extreme pain, nor squat without wanting to scream. Lunges were out of the question. Likewise, my wrists were weak and tight after spraining them years ago and also never really working flexibility into them.
So when I started yoga 3 years ago, I could barely do downdog without wrist pain and it was a milestone to do vasisthasana some months after starting yoga. So my point is that competitive sports can certainly cause injury in joints, leaving the injured person to deem those joints “bad.” They certainly don’t feel good, mobile, healthy. And yes, yoga can and does build flexibility back into those joints to stabilize, but you must work up to it and acknowledge your limits to get there in baby steps. If a teacher had told me “there’s no such things as bad knees,” I probably wouldn’t have gone back to her class. Think there are better ways of expressing the idea that injured or weak joints can be made stronger via yoga asans.
Immobility in the joints is only compounded by further immobility. Starting with smaller movement exercises and props allows for the freedom to work through the pain or discomfort that may be felt in the joints or muscles. Starting small may provide a student with small successes. Which in turn creates confidence and inspiration to continue the practice.
Indeed the movement for the joints is crucial. There can be much accumulation of toxins, inflammations – very crowded environment. Movement, creating space – opportunity to flush whatever is stuck and “fermenting” is super important.
Like most things, one could combine it with diet and joint “detox”. There are foods that support inflammation and foods that bring ease to the joints. Foods that keep your liver healthy for example will greatly improve the environment in the joints. There are many ways to keep your liver and gallbladder vibrant. Check with your nutritionist and natural health practitioner. You may discover that not only your wrists, but overall health gets a big boost.