Your Whole Upper Body Will Benefit From This Injury-Preventing Yoga Flow
No single region of the body operates alone, and that's why maintaining a healthy upper body isn't without a limber and strong foundation — which is often your wrists.
And when I think of wrist-strengthening exercises, my mind immediately goes to yoga. Taylor Harkness, a certified yoga instructor with Gaia, anatomy teacher, and emergency RN, agreed.
"A lot of modern yoga poses place the weight of the body on the hands and therefore both strengthen and stretch the muscles of the shoulders, chest, back, forearms, wrists, and hands," he said.
Harkness even created a flow with this ideology in mind, which he recommended doing one to three times a week.
"Strong muscles and limber joints are more resilient and tend to heal more quickly from injuries when they occur," Harkness added. "The entire body works together to stabilize during movement, so one weak link means the other muscles have to work harder to prevent injury."
If you are someone who struggles with inflammation, arthritis, or is recovering from a wrist injury, Harkness noted how important it is to consult with your doctor to see if these moves are right for you.
Seated Wrist Roll
"If your wrists are tight or you have been sitting at a computer, spend some extra time here," Harkness said.
- Lace your fingers in front of you and roll your wrists, making progressively bigger circles, then reverse the direction of your swirls.
- Do this for five to 10 breaths.
Harkness encourages you to work further into the wrist joints and surrounding supportive muscles with this move.
- Come to your hands and knees, and place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart.
- Aim your fingers slightly outward at an angle, gently sway the weight of your upper body to the left hand, and hold for two breaths.
- Then, sway your weight to the right hand and hold for two breaths.
- Then, repeat the move from side to side fluidly for a few rounds.
- To go further, rotate your wrists so that the fingers now face out to the side and continue swaying.
- Do this for 10 breaths total and repeat twice.
"This is where it will begin to get challenging," Harkness explained, as you warm up the muscles in the arms, chest, shoulders, and core.
- From the last pose, tuck your toes and straighten your legs into a plank position.
- Your wrists should be slightly wider than your shoulders and your legs should be straight.
- Firm up your belly so that it's supporting the middle of your body (no sagging!) and press the ground away through the entirety of the arms.
- Hold this pose for five to seven breaths.
- Do this pose at least three times with one-minute breaks in between. During your break, return to the gentle wrist swirls from pose one.
Cheetah Pose Variation
This pose turns up the heat, Harkness said, so keep breathing smoothly and deeply, and rest when you need to.
- Get into a strong plank and firm your arms, belly, and legs, so everything is engaged.
- Begin to hover your left foot a few inches off the ground, so the weight is in your hands and right foot.
- Take a deep breath. On your exhale, draw your left knee to your chest and push the ground away, rounding your upper back.
- On your inhale, straighten the left leg behind you again to hover your foot. Repeat this with your breath five times. Then, switch and do the other side.
- Remember, you can rest between sides and modify this move by keeping one knee on the ground to make it a bit easier.
Side Plank Variation
Here, you're going to strengthen your upper body while challenging your balance. "Remember: the entire body works together to stabilize, so take your time, modify however you need to, and focus on stable strength, not rushed movements," Harkness explained.
- From a Tabletop position, shift your weight onto your right hand and reach upward with your left hand, aiming your chest toward the left.
- Look down at your right hand to stay balanced — looking upward can throw you off.
- Continue to shift the weight into your right hand as you walk your feet back into a side plank, aiming your toes and the front of your body to the left, and balancing on your right hand and the outer edge of your right foot.
- You can hover your left foot to make it more challenging, or you can place your left foot on the ground either behind you or in front of you to make this easier.
- Keep pushing down through your right arm, firm your belly to stabilize, and take three to five smooth breaths. Rest or swirl your wrists (like pose one) before switching to the other side.
- To make it more challenging, skip the rest period between sides and go from five breaths on one side straight into five breaths on the other side.
According to Harkness, stretching and cooling down after any exercise is just as important as taking your time to warm up effectively. These final two poses help the muscles of the chest, neck, shoulders, and forearms relax back to balance.
- From a comfortable seated position (cross-legged or on your shins), lace your fingers and extend your arms up overhead, flip your palms upward, and count to 10 slowly.
- Now, clasp your hands behind your low back. If you cannot reach, you can use a strap or towel to help.
- Bring your clasped fists to your left flank area (left lower back and hip) and relax your shoulders, lean your left ear toward your left shoulder to stretch out the right side of your neck.
- Hold for five breaths, then switch and repeat on the other side.
- Finally, shake out your arms.