modifying yoga poses for wrists

modifying your yoga pose for wrists
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My husband recently joined me at my yoga studio for his first class. He's eager to return for another class, but suffers from a joint condition that makes it difficult, at best, for him to fully flatten his palms (both in midair and on the ground). He modified any necessary poses in class the other day by doing them on clenched fists (so on his knuckles), but I'm sure there has to be a better, less painful modification he can attempt. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts? Thanks so much! - Megan

a yogi answers

Dear Megan,

Thank you for your note. Glad to hear that your husband has chosen to join you in your yoga practice as I, myself enjoy the time my wife and I spend together at Moksha yoga.

While there indeed may be a number of reasons that he is unable to reach full extension in his wrists upon certain poses, thankfully a number of modifications can be performed to ensure maximum benefit from such poses.

Avoidance. Many poses such as the plank and downward dog can easily be performed on the forearms rather than the palms. Utilizing such modification can ensure minimal load placed on the wrists while maximizing the ease at which the poses are performed…especially if your husband is a beginner.

Assistive devices
. Foam rolls and blocks, sliced and modified can be utilized to minimize the angle at which the wrists are placed in loaded positions. If your husband is a handyman, I’m sure he can create one suitable for himself with relative ease. Additionally, the use of a thicker yoga mat may dampen the load placed on his hands and wrists.

Core strength. Finally, performing additional exercises to improve his core strength and endurance will ensure a more stable torso that undoubtedly will lessen the loads that the wrists must bear.

- Jeff Cubos, lululemon West Edmonton Mall ambassador

more about dr. jeff

• chiropractic sports specialist, strength and conditioning specialist, and co-owner of Back On Track Chiropractic & Sport Injury Clinic in Spruce Grove, Alberta
• committee member of KidSport (Parkland chapter), a national not-for-profit organization that provides financial assistance for registration fees and equipment to kids from 5 – 18 years.
• Ironman triathlete
• member of Team Canada’s inline hockey medical staff
• also teaches “Roll, Release, and Restore”, a movement based class targeting myofascial length, joint range of motion, and dynamic stability.
Jeff's website

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Thanks for posting this topic! I also suffer from wrist problems – I have severe tendinitis in one wrist and cannot flex it fully. I find plank position in particular to be very painful because of the load placed on the wrist. I will definitely try the modifications suggested by Jeff – thanks so much, this will definitely make yoga more enjoyable for me!

Comment by Jenn — September 1, 2010 @ 6:35 am

So how long should I wait after healing from a broken wrist before getting back into it? I broke the distal radius at the wrist.

Comment by Jodie — September 1, 2010 @ 10:38 am

I have the same problem. I was wondering if there are specific types of yoga I could try? An ashtanga studio suggested I find a different form of yoga, since it is very wrist-oriented. Is there any forms done at room temperature that you could recommend?

Comment by Lili — September 1, 2010 @ 11:27 am

I also have problems with my wrists. I wear roller blading wrist guards for support. Sometimes I also hold on to small hand weights while in plank positions. This allows for a straight alignment of the wrist, without forcing me to put weight on my knuckles.

Comment by Becky — September 1, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

The wrist and Ashtanga yoga… if a yoga class, instructor and location fit your schedule and life-I say stick with it. I understand how the wrist can feel like the weak point in all the up dog and down dog postures. I feel that when a posture or body part are speaking loudly to you in your asana practice, give it time rather than avoidance. Be patient and allow the joint to build strength over time- use the modifications or props if needed and be open to change rather than being stuck in the “I have writst problems” or what ever rut. Keep practicing yoga, there will always be a challenging posture or body part that will teach us much more than strength or flexibility. Sorry for the long winded comment :)

Comment by Jodee — September 1, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

@ Jodie – My first suggestion would be to have clearance from your physician prior to returning to your practice. Generally, fractures of the wrist in adults take 6-8 weeks for healing, although discomfort is often felt in subsequent weeks. My suggestion is that aside from rehabilitation, your return to yoga be gradual with modifications (as mentioned above) performed until full recovery. I see no problem returning to yoga WITH modifications, so long as your physician is okay with it.

@ Lili – While poses may overlap across the various forms of yoga, my suggestion would be to seek a type that holds longer poses and gradually transitions between poses. Hatha, Restorative, Anusara (Iyengar), and Yin yoga generally allow you to work your way through injury with comfort.

Comment by Jeff Cubos — September 1, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

@ Jeff Cubos – Thanks for the advice! I will do that!

Comment by Jodie — September 1, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

Perfect timing on this post. I started having wrist issue a couple of days ago and was wondering how I was going to manage my next yoga session because not doing it is not an option.

Comment by Jessie — September 3, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

Thanks for this post. I’ve had to avoid yoga since I hurt my wrist. Now that they (finally) have figured out what it is and I prepare for the mental duress that is surgery to fix it, I could use yoga now more than ever.

I’m going to try some of these modified poses so I can keep going while I wait for my surgery date.

Thanks so much guys! <3

Comment by Aleksandra S — September 8, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

Thanks for this post! I have tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both hands/wrists/arms. Dr. says it’s OK to do yoga, but I get fearful of exacerbating the problem. I will look to props and hope you can do a post on CTS modifications too!

Comment by Vivian — September 15, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

again – Super important subject.
Injuries is something all too common in the practice of yoga in the west. Our ideas of achievmant and testing ourselves are not matched to the ones tha stand at the base of yoga, and so many of us find ourselves missing thepoint -and getting injured. It is all too easy to get injured in Yoga, especially in Ashtanga yoga or strong vinyasa, and if you don’t understnad yourself, your goign to get injured.
Best advice I can give is:
Take it easy, breath and relax. Do NOT try to achieve, try to practice calmness and alert conciousness – Not hard hard-core physical postures. Practice with love to your body, and with time and patience – all else will come.

Comment by premium yoga mat — November 11, 2010 @ 7:24 am

Hi, I have been doing yoga for 2 years, and I also have a wrist condition from arthritis that keeps me from fully flexing it. I have found that slight angle modification on the poses do wonders. Also, the use of blocks has also helped a lot on my ashtanga practice. just remembre to be gente to your own body, it is the only one you have!

Comment by HectorN — January 1, 2011 @ 11:05 am

Hii there!!

I have weak wrists and I hate to let it get in the way of my practice so I often do modifications such as doing certain poses like downward dog and plank on my forearms instead of just wrist . Also , sometimes I like to go on my fists and i really notice the straight line from my fists to my shoulders and that is great because when its straight there is direct support from your bones. Alignment plays a huge part is safe yoga practice :”) Hope this helps ! Stick to whichever modification suits you best ! You should never feel pain !!! Listen to your bodyyy !

Comment by Kayla — January 11, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

I injured my wrist terribly the FIRST week of my yoga teacher training. It was awful. I finally got creative and figured out how to flow with the rest of the class and never have to put my hand on the ground. 6 months later things are getting better but I’m greatful that I know how to modify!

Comment by Kathryn — March 9, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

It is often hard to find a solution to dog issues with so much on the net these days. Thanks for giving me some decent info.

Comment by dog joint pain — May 13, 2011 @ 5:26 am

Hello, I am interested in starting yoga for numerous reasons but have been hesitant. I broke my wrist almost 2 years ago and have had a few surgeries, the last one 6 months ago to insert 2 pins and a wire. I have severe limited range of motion in my left wrist, with constant pain. Is there anything that can help, or things I can do without aggravating it further. Thank you so much.

Comment by Stephani — December 27, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

Hey Stephani,
Thanks for your question. I would recommend talking with your instructor about this. This way they can ensure you practice the proper variations for poses involving the wrists. I know some studios also offer recovery yoga for people who have had an injury. They will be able to cater and tailor the class to your needs.


Comment by GEC Online — January 2, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

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