Looking after your wrists in yoga class

Why take weight on our hands at all?

It’s often a shock when you get sent into your first downward dog in yoga class. Lift my hips up where?! Take how much weight onto my hands?!

We are an upright species after all and have evolved large, strong muscles in our hips and thighs to hold our weight. Upper body strength is important though, for lifting especially and for helping us to have healthy backs. In a yoga class, taking weight on our hands is a way of using gravity to build strength in our arms, shoulders and upper back. The most common poses that require weight-bearing in the hands are plank, Chaturanga (aka killer yoga press-up) and of course Adho mukha śvānāsana or downward facing dog. This is often used as a transition or even rest pose when actually it can be a struggle for people not used to taking weight on the hands.

Useful modifications for the wrists in your yoga practice

Our wrists are delicate and it’s worth taking it slowly when starting off. If there’s any pain in your wrists then that’s a sign to ease off and try a modification. For example, you could go onto your fore-arms, you could make fists of your wrists or even do the poses against a wall. Any yoga teacher will support you to do this so don’t be afraid to ask for help if experiencing any discomfort.

Simple home exercises

To build up some strength at home there are a few exercises you can do. You can press you hands together as though in prayer and draw the heels of the hands downwards. Then release by reversing the position of the hands and pushing the backs of them together, fingertips pointing downwards.

A woman lying in extended child's pose
Extended child’s pose

You could do 6 movements of cat into extended child’s pose every morning when you get up – your back will thank you for it! This will get your wrists used to holding some of your weight. You can add a lift into downward facing dog on an exhale when you’re ready. Stay there for 1 breath before lowering the knees and coming into cat pose on an inhale.
Before you know it you will be popping up into downward facing dog without hesitation. Good luck and let me know if you’ve had any problems with your wrists in yoga.