Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Avoiding Wrist Pain in Yoga - With Upward Facing Dog Variations

I received a question in the Facebook group (Liv Namaste) about wrist pain during yoga, which is something I have personal experience with. When I first started doing yoga, my wrists hurt a LOT. Every pose that required me to be on my hands was uncomfortable.

In time, I learned it was largely related to my alignment as well as my strength. When our muscles aren't yet developed to provide enough strength to hold us in a pose, we often end up relying on our joints. We sink into the wrists, the shoulders, the hips, the knees, etc... and let those bones do the work for our muscles. So I had to work on accepting variations of poses and understanding that doing so didn't mean I wasn't good at yoga. It meant I was honoring my body and helping it take a step forward on my yoga journey.

Today I'm sharing a few pictures to show some alternatives to Upward Facing Dog // Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana to help relieve pain and fatigue in the wrists. These are great choices as you continue to develop upper body strength. Pictured above is Baby Cobra, or Bhujangasana. There's barely any pressure on the hands, and the lift comes from the abdominals. Pictured below is Sphinx, or Salamba Bhujangasana

Sphinx puts the weight in the forearms rather than directly on the wrists, and it's a great way to open the chest a little more without going into full Upward Facing Dog or full Cobra. Now, if you're ready for full Upward Facing Dog, that's great! Pictured below is uncomfortable vs comfortable alignment for it. In the top photo the shoulders are hunched, the back is dipping, the legs are heavy, and weight is pressing down on the hands. This puts stress in the wrists and doesn't feel good. In the lower of the two photos, notice the elongation of the neck, the space between the shoulders and the head. There's also a subtle, perhaps imperceptible shift of the chest; try drawing it forward without bringing the shoulders beyond the hands.

The goal of upward poses like this isn't to gaze up at the ceiling. These heart-openers are meant to draw the lines of energy through the chest, and allow the body to inhale. In a well-aligned Upward Facing Dog, there's lift out of the hands and and the tops of the feet. There's extension through the spine although there is a slight back bend. The thighs are lifted off the mat. Watch a dog do this stretch and you'll see it's about reaching the hind legs and creating length in the whole body.

Hopefully this helps you make adjustments. Don't be afraid to have someone snap a pic of you in a pose so you can be more aware of what you look like. Mirrors are great, but sometimes just turning our heads to see ourselves can change how we were actually holding the pose. Please let me know if you have more questions about these poses or others! I'll have more variations coming to the blog/Facebook group later this week.

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