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How to Strengthen Your Wrists for Yoga

Let us help you with your wrist pain. Here are great tips and exercises that can help you get rid of wrist pain as well as strengthen your wrist.

A woman experiencing wrist pain while doing yoga.

Do your wrists look like this? Sore wrists and wrist pain are very common in daily life and yoga. 

In this article, you will learn about the wrist and how it works, movements you can do to stretch the wrists, how to strengthen the wrists for yoga and other exercises, and day-to-day living.

Getting to Know the Wrist

A woman experiencing wrist pain.

Source: Freepik

The wrist joint is complex. It connects the two bones in the forearms, called ulna and radius, to the carpals in your hands. Technically, the wrist is not just one single joint. It consists of many joints that work together for the movement of the hands. 

The wrists’ function is to make your hand move forward and back, side to side, transfer weight. 

What Causes Wrist Pain in Yoga?

Wrist discomfort and pain occur for many reasons. Your yoga practice could be the problem, but it could also be the solution. In yoga, we do many Downward Facing Dog, Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana, and other wrist weight-bearing poses. However, yoga wrist pain and wrist injury are more likely an impact of our lifestyle outside the mat.

Our hands perform many tasks every day. These tasks are mostly repetitive—from typing on our computer keyboards to tapping our smartphones to gripping our cars’ steering wheels. These repetitive motions lead to weak wrists that could lead to pain and injury. 

Underlying causes such as carpal tunnel syndrome could also be the reason why you are having wrist pain. It is a compression in the median nerve. It occurs when the pressure on your median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel to your hands. carpal tunnel syndrome causes weakness in the hand, tingling, numbness, and sometimes pain.

Some underlying causes of wrist pain and discomfort are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you feel any kind of discomfort in your wrists, you have to know how to strengthen your wrists for yoga and other weight-bearing activities. We also need wrist strength for carrying our grocery bags, writing and typing, and other activities we do in our daily lives. 

Treatment and Prevention of Wrist Injury and Pain

Treatment for a wrist injury and pain depends on the severity and cause of the pain. The most immediate and less invasive thing you can do is to let the wrists rest. You can also apply a cold compress to reduce the inflammation. If this doesn’t subside the pain, take pain medication.

A woman with wrist pain bandaging her wrist.

Source: Freepik

Some other less invasive treatments for wrist pain and injury is wearing a wrist wrap or splints. If the pain doesn’t go away after rest and painkillers, see your doctor. Once treatment is done, your next step should be wrist injury prevention through stretches and strengthening exercises.

Stretches for the Wrists

Stretching the wrists is necessary for wrist mobility and strengthening. Before doing any strengthening exercises, it’s best to loosen the joints and warm up your wrists, hands, fingers, and forearms. 

Wrist Circles

A close look at the clenched fist exercise.

Source: Public Domain Pictures

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Clench your fists with your thumbs under the four fingers. 
  2. Rotate your wrists clockwise for 5-10 repetitions.
  3. Rotate your wrists counter-clockwise for 5-10 repetitions.

Flexion Fingers Up

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Extend the right arm with the palm facing up. 
  2. Turn the palm to face you, so the fingers are pointing up.
  3. Now do a wrist flexion by the back of your right hand with your left hand. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Then do it on the other wrist.

Flexion Fingers Down

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Extend the right arm with the palm facing down.
  2. Then turn your fingers down with the palm facing towards you.
  3. Now gently push the back of the right hand and your fingers towards you using your left hand. Hold this for 30 seconds on each hand.

Extension Fingers Up

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Extend the right arm forward.
  2. Do a wrist extension by turning the palm to face forward and your fingers to point up. 
  3. Now, using the left hand, gently push the fingers towards your face. Hold for 30 seconds on each wrist.

Extension Fingers Down

A woman doing the extension fingers down exercise.

Source: Freepik

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Extend the right arm forward with the palm facing up.
  2. Now turn the fingers to point down and gently push the fingers towards you using the other hand. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then do it on the other wrist.

Fingers Behind Back

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Bring your arms to the back and interlace your fingers.
  2. Keep your elbows straight and lift the arms away and up. 
  3. Hold this for 30 seconds and shake your wrists as you release.

Prayer Thumbs In

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Your thumbs should be pointing towards your chest.
  2. Start pressing your palms together and then gently lower them down. Keep the heels of the hands together.
  3. Hold this for 30 sets and repeat three times.

Prayer Thumbs Down

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Put your palms together in front of your chest.
  2. Turn the fingers out and down while keeping the whole palms together.
  3. Gently bring the palms up and hold this for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat three times.

Wrists Strengthening Exercises

A man doing the firefly yoga pose.

Now that you’ve stretched the wrists, it’s time to strengthen. For these exercises, you will not need special props. But if you have a tennis ball, a resistance band, some lightweight dumbbells, or even small water bottles, keep those in handy.

Palms Up and Down

This strengthening exercise gives you not only strong wrists but also a strong shoulder and upper arm. 

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Sit tall on a chair. Your knees and ankles should be in line at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Now extend your arms to your side with the palms facing down. Align your wrists with your shoulder blades. 
  3. Rotate the arms, so the palms are facing up and then rotate, so the palms face down. 
  4. Do these ten times.

Rotation (Dumbbells or Resistance Band Optional)

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Sit tall and straight on a chair. Bend your arms to a 90-degree angle with your palms facing down. Make sure to clip your elbows close to your side.
  2. Now, make a fist with the palms facing down. 
  3. Rotate the wrists up and down. Repeat ten times. 

Note: If you have a resistance band or a set of light weights, you may use any of these during this exercise.

Wrist Curl (Dumbbells or Resistance Band Optional)

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Sit on a chair. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and let the forearms rest over your thighs. Your hands should go over your knees.
  2. Make a fist with your palms facing up if you’re not using any equipment. If you have, hold a resistance band, dumbbells, or your water bottles.
  3. Now curl up your wrists, and then down. Do this ten times. 
  4. Do this again ten times but with your palms facing down.

Note: Do not let the forearms lift off your thighs.

Finger Pulses

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Kneel down and spread your fingers wide.
  2. Now, put your fingers down on the ground in front of you.
  3. Put pressure on your fingers and then pulse ten times. 
  4. Repeat for two more sets.

Palm Pulses

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Come to your quadruped position or your Tabletop. 
  2. Gently shift the weight of your arms to your fingers and lift the palms up. Keep the fingers on the floor—pulse ten times to complete one set. Repeat for two more sets.

Squeezie (Tennis ball Optional)

A close look at the hand of a man squeezing a tennis ball.

Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Squeeze a tennis ball for 10 seconds. Take a break and repeat for 3-5 times. You can also do this without a tennis ball.

Note: If your wrist mobility is so restricted and you can’t do some of these movements, try to do them on top of a table or chair. If these exercises and stretches are still not accessible, do them on the wall.  

Now that you learned how to strengthen wrists for Yoga keep doing these stretches a few minutes a day. 

Protecting and Strengthening Your Wrists in Your Yoga Practice

Movement and physical activity are always good for the mind and body. If your wrists are painful, weak, in recovery, or blissfully pain-free, the only way to strengthen them is to continue using them. If your wrists are inflamed and painful, minimize using them for weight-bearing exercises. 

See a physical therapist if you must. Once you get a thumbs up on bearing weight on your wrists from your PT, you will need to work around your problem by modifying yoga poses and other movements.

Props are your friends when it comes to yoga. To avoid bearing weight on your wrists too much, you can use some wrist wraps with padding in the wrist’s heels. If you still feel discomfort, you can modify poses or the yoga flow.

If you’re going to a yoga class in a studio. In that case, you will most likely practice Sun Salutations which require you to do Downward Facing Dog, Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandanasa, and Cobra or Upward Facing Dog. You can swap these poses with other yoga poses.

A woman doing the dolphin pose.

  • You can swap Downward Facing Dog with doing Dolphin Pose. 
  • You can do Forearm Plank instead of a regular Plank Pose. 
  • For Cobra or Upward Facing Dog, you can do the Sphinx Pose or the Baby Cobra. 

Props are also your friends when it comes to practicing yoga with wrist discomfort. 

  • If you have dumbbells, you can do Downward Dog and Plank while gripping dumbbells. 
  • If you have yoga blocks, you can put them at an angle against the wall to practice Wheel Pose.
  • If you have a wall, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the wall and walk your feet back until you are in an L-shape. This is your modified Downward Facing Dog. 

You can also do Chaturanga Dandasana on the wall. Here are the steps to do this:

  1. Stand in front of the wall, about 2-feet distance.
  2. Place your hands shoulder-width (or wider if it is more comfortable) apart on the wall.
  3. Begin to bend your elbows on a 90-degree angle as you lean forward.
  4. Push back to your starting position when your nose almost reaches the wall.

A close look at a woman doing the utrasana pose.

Wrist pains are widespread. Therefore, we need to prevent it as much as we can by using and moving them carefully, letting them rest, and practicing stretching and strengthening exercises.

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