How to Protect Your Precious Wrists During Yoga

To help prevent wrist injury during yoga, there are certain steps you can take to avoid placing them in a compromising position. Follow these five tips during your next yoga class in order to stay on top of things — literally! — with care.

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It's all about alignment: The best way to prevent any yoga injury is to focus on proper alignment. You may be frustrated if a teacher is constantly coming over to adjust you, but think of it as a thoughtful lesson. Once you become aware of what proper alignment feels like in a pose, you'll find that you're able to correct yourself — no teacher required. Making sure your body is in the right posture is some of the best defense there is against wrist injury.

Let all four limbs do the work: Many wrist issues come from putting too much weight on the hands and not allowing the lower body to share in the balance. If you're in a pose where you're balancing on your hands and feet, like Downward Dog, take a moment and shift your weight back and forth between your hands and heels. Once you find that sweet spot in the middle where all four limbs are sharing the weight, that unhealthy (and unnecessary) stress will be taken off of the wrists.

Stretch and strengthen beforehand: Tight wrists that have been typing all day need to be loosened up before shifting gears into yoga poses. Something as simple as making fists and rolling out your wrists before class can make a big difference in your comfort level. It's also a great idea to try a few of these strengthening wrist exercises at home. Once you do these exercises regularly, things will start feeling more comfortable in yoga class.

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Take your time with arm balances: Jumping into arm balances takes much more than sheer arm strength, and powering into these poses too soon can lead to major wrist issues. Your whole body needs to be prepared for these advanced postures — not just your arms and wrists. Being brave and trying new things is necessary to further a yoga practice, but only move into these postures when you have a teacher to spot you or can use a wall for support.

Do the "Jackie Chan": According to yoga teacher Kathryn Budig, the secret to stronger, more stable postures where you're on your hands comes from deep within the serratus anterior, the muscle connects the front ribs to the shoulder blades. Kathryn says if you mimic Jackie Chan's kung-fu stance — "elbows bent, biceps tight to the body, forearms out" — you'll feel the serratus anterior engage, and your upper body will be in a much safer position. Engaging takes the pressure off your wrists to do all the work! You find much more comfort hanging out in hand-balancing postures when you've incorporated this tip into your practice.