June 2, 2022

How to Practice Yoga with Wrist Pain.


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I’m still coming to terms with the fact that my yoga practice will never be the same.

After years of intense Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Rocket Yoga, my wrists have finally told me “no.” I haven’t been able to do a “proper” Downward-facing Dog in months and my handstand practice is entirely nonexistent. To be frank, it sucks. And I’m somewhat sad that my practice isn’t the same because I miss that aspect of my identity. (Letting go of my past is not my strong suit.)

For a while, I lost all motivation to do yoga because I didn’t want to change my practice. Who doesn’t resist change? I was frustrated that I couldn’t do Chaturanga or even Table Top without feeling a shooting pain up the sides of my forearms. I just wanted to give it all up.

But I didn’t. Because I recognized that I was thinking from a limited perspective. Yoga isn’t what many people view “yoga” as. It’s so much more than strenuous wrist-required poses and deep, uncomfortable stretches. To me, yoga is becoming present with the breath and the body. It’s a deep connection to self. And for me, it’s a necessary component in my life that brings me back from my dissociative nature.

As long as we are creating a connection between our mind and body, we are doing yoga. Yoga can be a seated meditation. Yoga can be a long run. Yoga can be an intense boxing session. Yoga can be doing the damn dishes for all I care. How you choose to practice yoga is up to you. If you can breathe and you have a body, you can do yoga.

And if you also struggle with weak-ass wrists (or, really, just wrist sensitivities or injuries), there are so many different ways you can incorporate yoga into your life. And guess what? You don’t have to entirely let go of your beloved Vinyasa-style flows. Yay, modifications!

So, without further ado, here are just a few ways we can continue to incorporate yoga into our lives, even if we have wrist pain:

>> Modify, modify, modify.

I have become the queen of modifications. When I first started experiencing wrist pain, to be honest, it took a little hit on my ego. I didn’t want to modify. I wanted to seem like an “adequate” yogi. I’m sorry, but f*ck that. What the heck is an “adequate” yogi? If you believe there’s a better way to practice yoga, I’m here to tell you you are entirely wrong. Your practice is not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels. Listen closely to your body.

When I finally decided to listen to my body and stop bearing so much weight on my wrists, my forearms became my best friends. If you know me, you know I am a handstand junkie. And if you don’t know me…Hi, I’m Juliana, and I’m a handstand junkie. But, unfortunately, injured wrists equals no handstands for me. However, I’m still able to (somewhat) get my handstand fix by practicing Pincha Mayurasana (aka Forearm Stand) instead.

In fact, there are many poses where you can use your forearms instead. Can’t do a high plank? Get on your forearms. Can’t do Downward-facing Dog? No problem. Get on your forearms and try Dolphin Pose (Dolphin is a bit more challenging than Downward-facing Dog, but who doesn’t love a good challenge?) PS. don’t forget to bend your knees.

And if getting on your forearms isn’t an option, sit on your bum. Can’t do Cat-Cow on your hands and knees? Sit back on your heels and try seated Cat-Cow instead. Still having a hard time with planks? Try Navasana (aka Boat Pose) instead.

Can’t do Wheel Pose? Get on your knees and try Camel Pose or lie on your back and do Bridge Pose. Can’t do Upward-facing Dog? Lie on your belly and try Cobra Pose on your fingertips.

I’m certain there is a modification for every single pose in yoga; you just have to be willing to get a little creative (and maybe let go of your ego a little bit).

And when in doubt, do Child’s Pose. Or sit in meditation. Or lie in Savasana. Your practice is yours. And what a great place to practice taking ownership of your body and really, truly listening to what you need.

>> Do Restorative or Yin Yoga

Great news. There are many different styles of yoga that don’t require our wrists at all. Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga are both great options that allow us to open our bodies and connect to our breath in a similar way that any other style of yoga would.

Personally, I believe that our physical ailments are often a manifestation of something bigger than just an “injury.” Maybe our wrists are in so much pain because it’s our body’s way of telling us that we need to slow down. And what more perfect way to slow down than to start practicing Restorative or Yin Yoga?

>> Don’t do “yoga” at all! And maybe try a different form of movement that allows you to breathe mindfully.

Yoga doesn’t have to look like “yoga.” Yoga can be whatever you want it to be as long as you are present with your mind and your body. Find new ways to mindfully move. My personal favorites have been boxing, high-intensity interval training, dancing, and hiking.

Injuries suck. But we can’t let our injuries or sensitivities become excuses for not moving our bodies or connecting to our breath. We need to move our bodies every damn day and when we can also become present with our thoughts and how we are breathing, we will (surely) transform our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

But, please, don’t push yourself. Listen to what your body needs, modify accordingly, or try something new. Just don’t give up.

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