Why is Wrist Pain So Common in Yoga?

A lot of yoga students, particularly those who are new to the practice, complain of wrist pain.

In everyday life we use our wrists a lot for typing, texting, writing, lifting and holding objects. Most of these activities involve flexing the wrist (decreasing the angle between the palm of the hand and the forearm) but not extending the wrist (increasing this angle).

We also rarely bear weight on our wrists on a day-to-day basis. In yoga we mainly extend the wrists and it can take time for our bodies to adapt to this change in use. We also tend to bear weight on our wrists within the first few minutes of class and often in a way that relies on wrist flexibility and not wrist mobility.

Let’s explore this idea further by accessing it in our own bodies. Place the front of your forearms together so that your wrist creases touch. See how wide you can open your palms. Some of you will be able to form a “T” shape here while most of you will probably create a “Y” shape. Both are perfectly acceptable and demonstrate your range of wrist mobility. Now take one hand and gently press down on the opposite palm and see how much further the wrist opens. This is showing you how flexible your wrist joints are. Let’s now relate this to our own yoga practice. If your wrist mobility puts you in the “Y” category then every time you place your shoulders directly above your wrists in Plank Pose or a simple “tabletop” position you are using your body weight to move beyond your available range of wrist mobility and into the flexibility end of the spectrum.

If we never load our wrist joints within their range of mobility we are missing a great opportunity to strengthen them.

A great exercise that works specifically to develop wrist mobility is to clench your fist and move your wrist in slow, controlled circles in each direction. Notice how much the bones in your forearm are also moving to facilitate the wrist movement. Repeat the exercise this time holding onto the forearm so that the movements are purely coming from the wrist joints. Can you now isolate only the wrist movements while letting go of your forearm?