Downward Dog Yoga Health

As you build a regular yoga practice, you may experience many new bodily sensations as you go through the process of strengthening and changing the resting tone of the muscles throughout your entire body. But what happens if you begin to encounter sensations in your body which feel less than ideal? A common question I am often asked is “Why do my wrists and forearms hurt in downward facing dog?”

In order to answer this question about wrist and arm pain in yoga, a bit of soft tissue anatomy knowledge is necessary. There are four extensors of the wrist and fingers located on the posterior side of the forearm: extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radials brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris, and extensor digitorum.

The extensor bundle of the forearm.

The four extensors of the wrist and fingers, located on the posterior side of the forearm: extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radials brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris, and extensor digitorum

Stand and lift an arm in front of you so it’s parallel with the ground. Extend your wrists by bringing your fingers up towards the ceiling while your palms face forward ( Think…. “Stop! In the name of love!!”) When these muscles concentrically contract (meaning the muscle fibers shorten) they move the wrist into extension at the radioulnar joint.

On the opposite (anterior) side of the forearm are the flexors: flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, and flexor carpi ulnaris. In this same “Stop in the name of love” hand position, these muscles eccentrically lengthened.

So, why is this information important? Well, let’s investigate…

Take some time to notice the current range of motion in your wrists. Make a list of many of the tasks you perform throughout the day with your hands. When you take a moment to realize what you do with your hands (drink beverages, write notes, type at your computer, drive, and scroll through social media apps) you’ll soon notice that your wrists are either in a neutral or flexed position many hours throughout the day.

Now, let’s look at the mechanics of Downward Facing Dog – you are not only putting your wrists in extension but also adding gravity and body weight into the equation! Ouch!!

Sure that can cause a bit of discomfort, especially since Downward Facing Dog is one of the most common yoga poses, you may feel like there’s no forearm pain relief in sight. But alas, there is!

In Yoga Tune Up®, before we do any work on the muscles we begin with a “Check In.” First, face your palms down on a flat surface with your fingers facing you and your thumbs facing out. Attempt to press the entire surface of your palms (from your fingertips to the base of your palms) flat onto the surface.

Stay here for a few breaths and notice the range of motion in your wrists. Ask yourself, “How does this feel? Do my palms rest easily? Does it take a lot of effort to press down?”

Check out Jill below as she demonstrates Piano Fingers. I love the Piano Fingers exercise because it’s a double whammy, as it strengthens and articulates the muscles of the forearm, wrists, and fingers.

Follow it with a delicious Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball massage, such as the Forearm Fixer below or the Forearm Meltdown, which targets the extensors of the wrist and fingers and can be found on pages 319-321 in The Roll Model by Jill Miller.

You may also consider seeking instruction from a Yoga Tune Up® instructor in your area, or check my schedule for weekly classes in Chicago, IL.

I perform both of these Check Ins daily, and many of my students have experienced profound relief from the soreness in their wrists and forearms and are able to enjoy their yoga practice without pain.

Do you suffer from wrist pain in yoga? Try these two fixes and let me know in the comments below if they offer you relief!

Enjoyed this article? Read Glory Days – Don’t Let Them Pass Your Forearms By

 

Monica Bright

Monica’s passion in life is to teach. She holds an M.A. in Elementary Education and has spent a career of more than 15 years teaching young students, thus acquiring the skills to disseminate information in a clear and concise manner. With a dance background of more than 20 years and studying extensively in the area of biomechanics in movement and anatomy, Monica has a passion for the human body and understands the human form on a considerably deeper level, which you will find apparent in the intelligent sequencing of her classes.

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Isabelle Audet

Thank you, loved the Piano Fingers and massage of the forearm ”Forearm Fixer”

Kara Stafford

Great tips! I think I will add these 2 into my regular self care routine. Between practicing and teaching yoga, typing, and running my sewing business (lots of cutting and stitching fabric) my forearms get soooo tight! sometimes they feel like sausages with fingers at the ends! I also like to stick my thumb in the trigger point between the radius and ulna and give it a little love rub, too. Love the image of squeezing the toothpaste tube.

Denise Hopkins

I feel like this was written for me! I have tremendous tightness and sometimes aches in my forearms from strength moves and lots of assisting in my yoga classes. I am super excited about Forearm Fixer and have already sent the link to a student of mine with repetitive stress injuries from being in the dental field.

Rob

Nice, very simple and quick ways to warm up for down dog.

Will definitley be keeping in mind to share with students who are having this issue

Kim

I always hated those classes where they made you do Downward facing dogs again and again without even a small warm up before… Thank you for your short and well described exaplanation. It sure makes a lot of sense and I think most people will agree that you cannot do an extension of the wrist (with you body weight and gravity on it) when you are mostly in flexion all day long, without preparing him to receive the charge.

Rudie Jimenez

Love the finger articulation exercise. Simple but very effective. I hadn’t considered how big of a role the forearm plays in wrist pain /discomfort. Both of these exercises together are super helpful. Thanks!

Wendi

Wrist pain?? Yes!! Thank you for this post and the check ins that I will be applying to my daily routine to hopefully help me get over the hump of sore wrists during Downward Dog.

Esme Lopez

Fantastic post. I love the fingers exercise. I am going to incorporate that as a warm up before my yoga practice.
Thank you!

Elaine Siu

I’ve definitely experienced a lot of aches and pains in my wrists lately, especially with some slight carpal tunnel issues, so I loved these exercises! Particularly the first one that can be done anywhere without a prop, I think that’s a very powerful tool to incorporate and share.

E B

Monica, thank you so much for this article. This exercise is so simple–but deceptively so! Funny how one direction is so much harder than the other. When I started doing yoga, I was instructed to push my whole hand down into the floor in DWD but the prep makes this a lot more accessible than what I did–jamming it down on the floor. Both of these exercises are going to become go-tos for me and I know that they will make a big difference to the students I teach as well.

Andree

I love the piano fingers exercise! So simple yet can be practiced anywhere; waiting at the doctor’s office, sitting on the bus…thanks for the post!

Kammy Fung

This is one of my flavor sets exercise. It helps recovery from any the aerial class, knife work in the kitchen, or desk work from the computer. Fingers articulate can be played anytime during my break and require no tool. Forearm rolling is a one of best things I pampered my wrists.

jialu

It is exactly what I need! The videos are really practical and exactly resolves my issues. Thanks for the sharing.

Barbara Gentile

Thank you so much for this video, exactly what I needed. I am a yoga teacher, but also an aerialist, so my forearms are always screaming from grabbing a trapeze bar or a tissue and going upside down or pulling myself up.

Sarah Millar

This is great knowledge to have as a soon-to-be, Yoga Tune Up instructor. I love the reference to the “stop in the name of love” shoulder and hand motion. I will definitely be using that line in my classes! Thank you for sharing this.

Marisa

Just beginning yoga I’ve noticed more wrist pain for sure. I’ve used forearm fix with yoga tune up to help recover from lifting but piano fingers is new. I’m definitely going to integrate that into my routine and look for differences.

Marisa

Just beginning yoga I’ve noticed lots of wrist pain and I’ve done a forearm fix before recovering from lifting but piano fingers is new. I am going to integrate that into my routine and see how that changes things.

Eva Martens

I have struggled with wrist issues and the piano fingers exercise by Jill was something similar to what my chiropractor recommended as a type of nerve flossing for the fingers. Its interesting how simple movements can help in ways maybe not even intended, or maybe its from an intutive element. I will definitely try the forearm fixer too! Even as I type I can feel that tightness happening and I look forward to trying this as it looks fairly simple to do with the Tune up balls.

Sierra

I will use “stop in the name of love” in all my classes :). I also like that you acknowledged that part of starting a yoga practice includes discomfort as the body adapts to new loads.