Many of the ultra-pizazzy yoga party tricks have to do with hand balancing and floating. Students beginning the practice of yoga are often curious and excited to get to these next-level poses.
A common complaint for practitioners beginning new arm-balancing practices is wrist pain. It is important to strengthen, stretch and prepare the wrist to arm balance, otherwise injury can be a very real and painful presence.
A Note About Wrists
Turn your hand palm face up. Look at the base of the wrist. In the middle, where the palm meets the wrist there is a small indentation. Underneath that indentation is the median nerve.
When we put consistent pressure on this area, this nerve will get strained and lead to wrist pain, like carpel tunnel. It can also lead to numbness and tingling. If not careful the pain will eventually shoot all the way up the forearm. Super uncomfortable.
In order to protect against this, some simple alignment awareness will help.
When practicing any postures on the wrists with the fingers facing forward, make sure the crease of the wrist is parallel with the front of the mat. Ensure that the wrist crease isn’t too crinkly. How do you do this? Tent the palm slightly.
Glue the index and middle finger knuckles down as much as possible and then energetically pull the fingertips toward those knuckles. It takes some practice at first, but once you get this action, the whole forearm will be at work in your arm balances, taking most of the pressure off the wrists.
Yoga Poses to Build Wrist Strength
Here are seven poses to help you build wrist strength. Try them with the alignment mentioned above and the action of sticking the knuckle down while pulling the finger tips in, all the while being aware that the median nerve is not taking too much pressure. See if you notice a difference.
1. Plank Pose
2. Downward Dog
Everyone's favorite pose! You can find alignment tips here.
3. Side Plank
4. Upward table top or Upward Plank Pose
Practice Upward Tabletop if you’re not yet ready for Upward Plank, or if you're feeing a little tired.
5. Crow Pose (Any Variation)
6. Peacock Pose
If you’re not yet ready for Peacock, just try to get the arms in the proper position and bear weight onto the wrists and elbows. Don’t even try to lift up, just get used to the feeling of the asana.
7. Handstand or Handstand Prep
L-stands against the wall, one-footed downward dog, tiny hops from a standing split, donkey kicks—these will all get your wrists used to and ready to take more weight.
Try paying more awareness to the alignment of hands, fingers and knuckles in your arm balancing and hand-to-ground postures. It will make a huge difference in your practice. What are your favorite ways to strengthen your wrists?