For anyone who has ever practiced yoga or walked into a yoga class and performed this pose, you are likely to hear this statement, “my wrists give me so many problems when I do downward dog.” I recently challenged my class with a pose that is in and of itself challenging, Mayurasana or peacock pose. This is not a simple pose at all and requires a lot of strength in the arms to hold up a good majority of your body. We used some props to help us get into the pose, but as my students were attempting this pose, many were asking why the pose was so difficult and attributed most of it to really weak wrists. I became intrigued as to why wrists, for some people, are so weak, how you can strengthen them, and could weak wrists be a big cause for carpal tunnel syndrome and not so much just repetitive movements of the hands and fingers. The misalignment of the shoulders can also play a part, but for today, we will just be looking at the wrists.
The Anatomy of Your Wrists
There are many tiny parts that make up your hand and wrists and having a clearer understanding of its makeup can ensure a lesser chance of injury. The hand is composed of carpals, metacarpals and phalanges. The carpals consist of eight bones, the metacarpals make up the bones in the palm of the hand and the phalanges are the bones in the fingers. There are then two bones, the radius and the ulna which make up the forearm and which are then connected to the bones in the wrists via muscles, ligaments and tendons. So, these somewhat small bones in the palms and the wrists need to hold up a lot of weight when coming into either downward facing dog, Mayurasana or headstand. Where most yoga students have issues in their wrists are when the wrists are flexed and the flexor muscles running along the palm side of your hand and forearm are stretched. Some other situations that can occur are when most of the weight falls into the outside of your hands; the knuckles buckle under the weight and the fingers are slightly curled when pressing your palms down; or when the weight collapses to the heel of the palm instead of the fingers and bones in the palms.
Weak Wrists Linked to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are many causes for carpal tunnel syndrome and one of them is wrist weakness. The nerve that runs through the center of the forearm is called the median nerve which runs inside of a narrow tunnel. What happens with carpal tunnel is that the tendons get inflamed at certain points along the wrist and forearm and press into the nerve causing numbness and pain throughout the arm. Many of us spend our time with our wrists in flexion, so the extensor muscles, the muscles on the back on the hand and forearm, can get over stretched while the flexor muscles can become tight over time. The flexor muscles become weaker because they have not been used, stretched or moved in any other direction. This can be seen when we are driving, typing, sewing, doing any type of racquet ball sport, cooking or even texting. Just like any other part of our body, when the wrist has not been given an opportunity to move and explore all ranges of movement, its options become limited.
Make Your Weak Wrists Stronger
Some poses that are great for reducing pain are coming onto all fours and slowly bearing more weight into the hands as well as Childs’ pose with the arms extended out. More exercises can also be seen in the Yoga Tune Up® Quick Fix video for Hands, Wrists and Elbows. Time that is dedicated to restoring strength and flexibility in the hands and wrists can save you a lifetime of pain and finally give you that chance to get into downward dog with ease.
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