Wrist Pain & Yoga: Physiotherapy & Yoga Perspectives on How to Resolve

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Yoga is a great form of exercise that not only incorporates stretching, but also mindful awareness of your body through movement.

There are many schools of yoga with a wide variety of different poses. One of the most common schools of yoga is hatha yoga. The movement sequences, or flows, in hatha yoga incorporate exercises where you need to put body weight through your wrists. For example, downward-facing dog is one such pose.

It’s not uncommon for some people to experience wrist pain when doing these wrist-loading exercises. Wrist pain when doing body-weighted yoga poses can be a result from an old injury, a muscle imbalance or overtraining.  Although you may feel your yoga practice is limited because of this, don’t fear!

In this article, Innovation Physical Therapy & Yogalife are teaming up to bring you a complementary perspective on this issue.

Wrist Pain in Yoga

There are a variety of yoga poses that can load the wrists. Downward Facing Dog, Upward Facing Dog, Plank and Chaturanga are among the most common poses especially in a Vinyasa style class.

There are quite a number of bones that make up the wrist joint. 13 in fact! These bones work together to provide flexibility and stability to the wrist. Wrist pain can occur in a number of places, but the most common would be just below the thumb in the small divot that shows up when you spread all your fingers. As well, pain can commonly be experienced on both the front and back of the wrist.

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Yoga Recommendations on How to Reduce Wrist Pain

When starting out in yoga, there is a common tendency to grip like a bear into the yoga mat.  This can end up causing pain at the base of the wrist. When you’re in the plank position lowering down to Chaturanga (or half push up), your elbows need to stay close to your body. Your legs should remain engaged while you lower down to the floor. This will keep your weight distributed throughout the body rather than using only your hands to lower your body.

One of the main instruction cues that yoga teachers remind students during a weighted wrist pose is to focus on pressing down into the base of the  thumb and index finger. This helps to take the pressure off of your wrist. When you’re starting out in yoga, it’s easy to lift your thumb and index finger off of the matt which causes excess tension and body weight to be translated through your wrist.

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Another important strategy to reduce wrist pain is to activate your core a little more so your body weight shifts away from your wrists. It’s also important to not forget your legs. Activating your legs in any pose (even a handstand) will help you lift your weight out of your hands and spread it more throughout your body.

It can also be helpful to stretch your wrist muscles as well as opposing movement to help relieve any of the repetitive strain you may feel when practicing yoga.

If yoga students need to reduce or avoid weight bearing through their wrists then yoga instructors can adapt poses to help reduce wrist strain. This could include weight bearing through the forearms as opposed to the wrists (e.g.baby cobra instead of upward facing dog for instance) or using a closed fist (e.g. during chaturanga) to help maintain the wrist in neutral alignment.

Finally, it may be necessary to look at transitioning to a more gentle class style that has fewer wrist loading poses.

PT Recommendations on How to Reduce Wrist Pain

As physiotherapists, we focus on understanding the root of your pain and it’s no different if you are experiencing pain in your wrists during yoga.

It is hard to say what could be causing your wrist pain since we have not physically examined your wrists or upper body. But assuming no specific injuries, there is one foundational concept we find helpful in those with wrist issues during yoga.

The concept we want to share is the importance of opposing muscles sharing an equal amount of tension and length. Let us explain.

You have muscles on the front of your forearm (that let you grip) and muscles on the back of the forearm (that let you extend your fingers). These muscles cross the wrist. When one group of muscles tightens more than the other, the unfortunate result can be increased strain through your wrist joint.

We do a lot of gripping in life (writing, holding things, opening doors, lifting weights, etc) so it’s likely that your wrist flexors will become shortened in relation to your wrist extensors. This can strain your wrist and you may find yourself experiencing pain with yoga poses.

The solution: Start working on strengthening your wrist extensors. This Youtube video walks you through what this looks like. Low weights are ok (typically 1-3 pounds) and focus on working up to 3 sets of 15.

 

It goes without saying that getting assessed by a physiotherapist is important to understand what is going on. There are many other reasons for wrist dysfunction! Also you may experience numbness and tingling in your hand and fingers. This is something not to ignore and should be looked into.

Key Takeaways

We hope you found this article helpful bringing together two different perspectives on wrist pain during yoga. Here are your key takeaways:

  • Engage your leg muscles while doing yoga poses so your weight can begin to move throughout the body and not just your hands
  • Increase your contract pressure through your thumb and index finger during wrist load bearing poses so pressure through the wrist is reduced
  • Balance the muscles that cross your wrist joint by strengthening your wrist
  • Adjust your poses to take weight off your wrists

Next Steps

Need to dig a little deeper? We’d recommend you give Innovation Physical Therapy a call to get an in-depth assessment of your movement challenges. They have 6 physiotherapy clinic locations throughout Edmonton & Sherwood Park including Riverbend, Meadowlark, Belvedere, Namao, Sherwood Park and West Henday (January 2018).

 

For all our Yogalife guests, you can now benefit from Yogalife priority bookings, rates and access to their therapeutic facilities through our new Yogalife + Innovation Physical Therapy priority access program. Simply, provide your Yogalife member number at time of booking. Call (587) 524-8200 to book an appointment.

Disconnect to Reconnect: Taking a Break From Technology

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Technology is likely the most dynamic industry that experiences exponential growth every year. Whole keynote talks are dedicated to the release of a new phone with thousands of people in attendance, and then even more lining up in store to be the first owners of the latest handheld gadgets.

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We are fascinated by social media and the latest apps that allow us to express ourselves on a public platform. However, are we really using social media to be, as the name would suggest, more social?

The interesting, and often ironic observation that has been made by many about technology and the social media movement is it’s inherent ability to both connect and build barriers between people. Take, for example, your cell phone. It has the ability to connect individuals thousands of kilometers apart as if they’re right next to each other, yet when you walk into most coffee shops  these days, people who are physically right next to each other seem divided and buried in their phone screens. Instead of experiencing a concert, or once in a lifetime event firsthand, you often see youth of today experiencing these social situations through their phone screen, making sure to record and document each moment to share later with their followers.

I’m totally guilty of this. If you’ve ever seen my Instagram, it’s almost exclusively concerts, selfies, and food pictures. So rest assured, I am in no way being critical of those who are engaged in this practice, as I am one of them.
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We’re simply adapting to the times. This generation happens to be one that has technology and social media integrated into almost all of life’s circumstances. Life events such as babies being born, to travelling the world, to having dinner with friends, to even purchasing your favorite fall-themed caffeinated beverage with a backdrop of coloured leaves are all being documented with the perfect filter. We are constantly documenting, posting, and reading other’s social media but amidst all this, we lack authentic connections. Humans are social creatures – without true social interactions we are in a way, betraying our very nature.

 

For that reason, it’s important that we, as frequently as possible, take a break from all this information. 

 

While I’ve already admitted to being a consumer and distributer of social media, I know there is importance in taking time away from my phone, computer and television.


So what are some key concepts to help us disconnect from technology to reconnect to ourselves and those around us?

Don’t be afraid of being bored.

In some cases, addiction to social media stems from a fear of being bored. Again, I am a prime example of this. Whenever I have “nothing to do”, my first instinct is to reach for my phone and check Instagram. What have people posted? Should I post? What funny pictures can I find today?

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Some psychologists argue that boredom is a prerequisite for true creativity. As children, who were of a generation that lacked tablet computers and cell phones, when we were bored, we eventually transformed into different people to pull us out of our boredom. Some of us became artists, who painted pictures. Some of us became carpenters who built structures out of cups and popsicle sticks. Others became nature junkies searching for interesting rocks to skip across ponds. This is partly why the advent of adult colouring books has become popular to this generation. We want to return to simpler times.

Get creative.

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“Disconnect to reconnect” doesn’t mean that your disconnected time is solely meditation or time where you do nothing. It just means doing something unplugged. If you like to paint, paint something. If you like to write, grab your notebook. If your a musician  dust off your guitar or piano keys. Do something that comes purely from you that is not influenced by others. Tapping into your inner creativity will help re-acquaint you with your true self. 

 

Give yourself time to “power down”.

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Before bed, give yourself at least an hour or two where you do nothing on your computer, television, or cell phone. Firstly, studies have indicated that light from our devices is perceived by our brains the same way that photons of sunlight during the daytime hitting our retinas are. Essentially we’re tricking our bodies into thinking it’s daytime during the night, thus delaying our ability to go to bed. Secondly, when you don’t have reminders of your “to do lists” or instant access to social media, it allows us to reach a level of natural calm before bed without stressing out over answering those emails.

Keep your phones at bay when interacting with friends

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Probably the most important concept to me personally, is to make sure that I am giving all of my attention to those around me. Getting together with friends, I find, gets harder every year to coordinate, as people’s schedules and personal lives get busier. I want to cherish the moments I do have with those important to me, and make sure I honour their commitment to our friendship by being present whole-heartedly with them in that moment. Put your phone on silent, and put it out of sight. Listen to your friends. It’s so much more important to be engaged with those who matter to you than to post that picture of the artisanal doughnut you had the other day, perfectly plated and filtered.

When you have time, meditate.

Previously we posted a quick and easy guide to starting a meditation practice (see article here) and that falls directly in line with this concept of disconnecting. Silent time with yourself to breathe, and focus inwardly is so important in a generation where we’re constantly stimulated and bombarded with information.

Give yourself the luxury of purposefully doing nothing. It’s such a cleansing practice, and so easy to do. Just find a comfy place to sit, close your eyes, and breathe.

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Seva Canada: Our Karma Yoga Charity

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80% of global blindness is treatable or preventable if given proper care and attention.

The Yogalife community spends a lot of time meticulously sorting through many worthwhile charities to donate the proceeds from our Karma classes to, and the next charity we’ve selected to support is Seva Canada.

SEVA IS A VANCOUVER-BASED CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION WHOSE MISSION IS TO RESTORE SIGHT AND PREVENT BLINDNESS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.
— Seva Canada

The focus of Seva is to help the estimated 36 million people around the world who are living with blindness, and the 217 million others with visual impairment – 80% of global blindness is treatable or preventable if given proper care and attention. According to Seva, half of the world’s blindness is “caused by cataracts, a reversible condition that requires a 15-minute, $50 operation”.

Helping to restore an individual’s vision is considered by the World Bank as “one of the most cost-effective health interventions” that can aid people in breaking the cycle of poverty. Restoring vision allows people to take better care of themselves, increases employability, allows individuals the opportunity to acquire an education and can help individuals contribute to their communities.


Seva has 5 main focuses:


Sight for Women

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According to Seva, two-thirds of the world’s blind are women and girls, who in developing countries are far less likely to access eye care services because of multiple socioeconomic barriers that they face. Seva Canada has collaborated with KCCO, based out of Africa who has been researching the gender inequity in the treatment of blindness. Publication of said research was funded by Seva, which is helping to shift the movement of equitable eye care in developing countries.

 

Sight for Children

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Seva looks to expand pediatric eye care services around the world, which is exceptionally challenging as treating children with visual impairments has a higher associated medical cost as more specialized equipment and general anesthetic are typically required in these cases. Seva-funded pediatric programs start in poor and remote countries, with teams helping to organize surgeries and appropriate treatments for children identified as having a visual impairment and also provide education to families on how to maintain healthy vision for the rest of their life.

 

Sustainability

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Ultimately the programs that Seva supports are aiming for ongoing sustainability without having to rely on donations or foreign support. Seva looks to empower communities with the ability to provide on-going access to eye care.

 

 

 

Training

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Seva Canada funds a variety of strategic training initiatives to enhance knowledge in low-income settings, from the level community health volunteers to highly skilled opthamologists. The knowledge-base needs to be present for these programs to be successful, and Seva hopes to provide a means for the professionals involved in the care of those with visual impairment with appropriate training.

 

Universal Access

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Seva Canada’s largest ambition is to provide universal access to vision care at the farthest corners of globe, continually moving towards breaking down barriers mentioned before, that prevent people from accessing proper care.


Photo by Pete Longworth Photography

Photo by Pete Longworth Photography

As part of our contribution to Seva Canada, we will be hosting a Karma class at Yogalife Studios North on Thursday October 12th (World Sight Day) from 5 to 6 PM called Sweat for Sight. This will be a special blindfolded class that gives participants the experience of the challenges moving with a visual impairment. We hope you can join us for this special event.


For more information on Seva Canada, and to donate, please visit their website at: