On Monday, I posted a bit about why your wrists might not easily explore full ranges of extension, especially if you spend your whole musical and technological life in flexion. I additionally had two students in my yoga classes yesterday that complained of wrist pain, and it reminded me that we teachers can do better in teaching progression and strength. First though, what are some of the postures in yoga (and pilates and other movement disciplines) that might create full wrist extension?
1. Table Top/ Cat- Cow/ Plank
Whether at the top of a pushup or the beginning of a spine warm-up, this set up requires full wrist extension. One way of modifying it is to make a fist and use the knuckles as the contact point with the ground. Another option is to roll up the edge of your mat and decrease the angle of wrist extension needed. Planks on top of physio balls are equally demanding, as well as side planks, so keep in mind that pilates and traditional gym classes may also be taxing.
2. Downward Facing Dog
I mentioned this last time, but DFD requires wrist extension, but not to 90 degrees. It's usually less taxing than the plank to pushup situation, but as with other weight bearing poses, it’s about progression, building strength over time, and not suddenly doing 50 Downward dogs out of the blue.
3. Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog
This sequence, often called the vinyasa, requires full range of wrist extension. The easiest thing to do is to skip it when you're tired, or just lower to your belly and do a baby cobra. Upward facing dog itself is super taxing because of the extension, transition through the pushup, and weight combination. This sequence of events is often glossed over in yoga, but it’s a stylized pushup, and pushups are great if your body is prepared, adapted, and ready to be loaded with your body weight, but if not, you may need to work up to the strength required to perform the activity. (Yoga teachers and pilates can also do a better job of training students to get to this point rather than just asking people to do them!)
4. Any arm balance.
Whether it's crow, side crow, twisted scissors, handstand, or galavasana, your entire body weight is balanced over your hands. If you have weak wrists, limited range of motion, or have no idea if you should be doing arm balances, you probably shouldn't.
5. Full wheel (AKA. Urdhva Dhanurasana)
For years, this was my wrist nemesis. It requires shoulder mobility and wrist mobility, and I always wanted to do it because everyone else could. Even now, I can't hold it for a long time, and I have to be really mindful about warming up my body before I attempt it. Stick with bridge if you're sensitive, or put the hands on blocks against the wall to decrease the range (or grab a hold of the teacher's ankles).
Now that we've looked at some of the wrist extension culprits, we'll address some ways to modify postures to make them more wrist friendly, and how to work on building your range and strength over time.