Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

Top 5 Challenging Wrist Poses in Yoga (and other movement disciplines)

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.  First though, what are some of the postures in yoga (and pilates and other movement disciplines) that might create full wrist extension?

This is sometimes seen as "table top," or the beginning of cat cow, or quadruped.  It may come at the beginning of class, but it can be hard on the wrists if the range isn't there.

This is sometimes seen as "table top," or the beginning of cat cow, or quadruped.  It may come at the beginning of class, but it can be hard on the wrists if the range isn't there.

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.  Down Dog

I mentioned this last time, but dog requires wrist extension, but not to 90 degrees.  It's usually less taxing than the plank to pushup situation, but sometimes, for an overworked musician, enough is enough, and you don't need to do 40 down dogs in an hour class.

3. Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog

This posture, upward facing dog, requires the body weight to be lifted on the wrists, whereas cobra keeps contact between hips and the mat.  That's a little tough on the wrists sometimes. 

This posture, upward facing dog, requires the body weight to be lifted on the wrists, whereas cobra keeps contact between hips and the mat.  That's a little tough on the wrists sometimes. 

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 wrist because of the extension and weight combination.  

4.  Any arm balance.  

This pose is commonly called crow or crane, depending on the variation.  For obvious reasons, it can be a bit tough on the paws.

This pose is commonly called crow or crane, depending on the variation.  For obvious reasons, it can be a bit tough on the paws.

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, or have no idea if you should be doing arm balances, you probably shouldn't.  It's not worth getting fancy in class if you hurt yourself.

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 opening the shoulders and lower back before attempting it.  Otherwise, it's unpleasant.  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).  

This picture of full wheel shows all the musculature involved in the pose.  It requires a lot of mobility in the shoulders and strength, which can be tough to navigate.

This picture of full wheel shows all the musculature involved in the pose.  It requires a lot of mobility in the shoulders and strength, which can be tough to navigate.

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 your range and strength.