It’s important to protect your wrists in any yoga pose—but Wheel Pose is notorious for causing wrist pain or soreness. Here’s how to be mindful of the risks to your wrists.
While Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) is one of the best poses to target your entire body—it tones you all-over, strengthens your shoulders, arms, and upper back, and stimulates your cardiovascular system—it can also cause serious injury if you don’t do it safely. Depending on your body composition and muscles, the pose can be especially risky for your wrists.
Wheel Pose puts quite a bit of load on your wrists while they are in full extension (or hiked upward and pressed against the mat). We simply don’t use our wrists in that way, so most of us aren’t conditioned for it.
Daphne Lyon, a yoga and SUP yoga instructor in Philadelphia, says she sees wrist pain pop up in yoga in general fairly often, and in Wheel Pose particularly.
“We use our hands and wrists daily for things like typing, texting, driving, but we rarely find ourselves on our hands throughout the day,” Lyon explains.“Then all of a sudden you’re in a yoga class and using your hands as feet! You’re placing a lot of weight on the hands and bending your wrists in ways you don’t normally.”
Experts agree that the best way to avoid wrist injury in any sport is to build up strength gradually. This means that if you’ve been away from yoga for a while, it’s probably best to avoid Wheel Pose—even if it felt like no biggie for you before—until your wrists are stronger.
“Most wrists could use strengthening exercises to increase flexibility,” says Lyon. “Exercises and warm-ups can help, whether the goal is to eventually aid in that 90-degree bend or to simply support the wrist joint where it’s at.”
It’s also extremely important to be mindful of weight distribution throughout your practice, Lyon says, since a lack of even weight distribution between your hands during the pose can cause injury.
See also 6 Yoga Warm-Ups for Wrist Pain and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Daphne Lyon’s Tips to Protect Your Wrists for Your Best (and Safest) Yoga Practice Ever
3 Wrist Exercises for Wheel Pose
1. Do the thumb flick
To strengthen your wrists, extend your arms out in front of you while kneeling or standing. Imagine you were flicking water off your thumb with your fingers (open and close the fingers quickly) for a count of 10. Later, work up to 20 counts to gradually build strength.
2. Mat stretches
Come to a kneeling position. Place your hands on the mat in front of you, fingers facing your knees. Thumbs turn out, pinkies turn in. At first you may just place your fingers on the mat, feeling a stretch in your palms, wrists, and forearms. As your flexibility increases, you may place your whole hand on the mat, adding weight as you lean forward from your kneeling position.
3. Actively practice even weight distribution
Throughout class, be mindful of the alignment of your hands to gradually strengthen your wrist. For instance, in the asana sequence practiced most often in vinyasa classes: Downward-Facing Dog, Plank, Chaturanga, Upward-Facing Dog, make it your mission to evenly distribute your weight from your wrists, to your palms, into your knuckles and fingertips.
See also Learn How to Protect Your Wrists in Your Practice
How to Be Mindful of Wrists and Hands Daily
During the day: Flex those fingers
Take time throughout the day to give some love to your wrists using some of the strengthening and flexibility exercises. For example, after typing on the computer or texting on the phone, take a few minutes to stretch your fingers, hands and wrists to keep the circulation moving and your joints happy. You should also try to be mindful of how you use your hands and the positioning of your wrists throughout the day. I notice I grip the wheel sometimes when I drive. I try to relax my hands when driving since I am in the car often. This simple practice will create subtle habits that have long-term effects.
Whenever you have down time: Massage your hands
Massage your hands and wrists with an oil or lotion of your choosing. Or even get a manicure: having someone else massage your hands will relax tense muscles and bringing renewed circulation to the hand and wrist.
See also 8 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Wrists
During your practice: Use an angle to come into Wheel Pose
Place two blocks against the ledge of a wall at an angle. You can also place a rolled up blanket under the angled blocks if the wall has no ledge. Lay on your back, head between the blocks. Plant your feet on the mat, knees bent, about hips distance away from one another. Place your hands on the angled blocks, fingers facing shoulders. Press down into your hands and feet and slowly with your breath come up into Wheel. The angled blocks lessen the amount of wrist extension. A wedge is another prop used to decrease the extension of your wrist in Wheel that most yoga studios carry.
OR, During your practice in class: Get an assist
Ask a yoga teacher for assistance in Wheel. Grab hold of the teacher’s ankles as they stand with their feet on either side of your head. With knees bent and feet placed firmly on the ground, press down into your hands and feet to lift into Wheel.
The 6 Best Undies to Wear Under Your Yoga Pants
The right underwear can make or break how comfortable (and fidget-free!) you stay during your practice.
While many yogis go commando in yoga pants, there are plenty of practitioners who are pro panties. But if you fall in that camp, you know how crucial it is to choose the best underwear for yoga. Choose a pair that doesn’t wick sweat and you could feel like you’re wearing a diaper during hot yoga; opt for a lacy thong and you’ll likely be fidgeting your way through every vinyasa.
See also Do You Go Commando in Yoga Pants?
Looking for the ultimate list of the best underwear for yoga? Here are our 6 top picks that don’t ride up, wick sweat like champs, and are so comfy you won’t even notice they’re there.
5 Poses to Practice in a Cramped Airplane Seat
It is possible to do some yoga on your next flight (yes, even if you’re stuck in a middle seat in coach)
Think you have to wait until you’re off the plane to get a good stretch? Think again. As crazy as it sounds, I promise you it is possible to practice yoga from the discomfort of your airplane seat.
Consider this: Yogis are primed to stay focused in less-than-ideal conditions. Remember that packed yoga class you were in that was mat to mat, yet you were able to focus on your own practice? Remember that time you were in a deep twist and were still able to breathe? Yoga teaches us to find inner space, regardless of outer conditions. In fact, the more inward our focus, the more expansive we feel. So, while we may not be able to stretch our legs out fully or do a Handstand in the airplane aisle, we can stretch our minds and find the space we seek within—yes, even when stuck in a cramped middle seat on a long flight.
See also Yoga at the Airport: 5 Poses for a Long Layover
Try this 5-pose sequence specifically designed to practice in your seat, with your seatbelt fastened.
About the Author
Sarah Ezrin is a yoga teacher in San Francisco. Learn more at sarahezrinyoga.com.
A Yoga Sequence to Heal Your Bladder and Kidney
Working the kidney and bladder meridians through the following sequence will help you emerge from loneliness, depression, and fear.
Everything starts in water. It is the womb and the source—the place where all is possible and from where all energy emerges. As such, it is also the energy of water where all healing cycles begin. In Energy Medicine Yoga—a system of yoga that combines energy work with asana—we explore where energy is stuck, and how we can get it to flow. And we focus on the organ systems and meridians that correspond with water: the Kidney and Bladder.
Kidney is the meridian system that leads all the others. The first acupuncture point on the Kidney meridian, Kidney 1, is the point on the base of your foot where energy enters the body. The energy then rises up to the end point of the Kidney meridian, called Kidney 27, which is a junction point for all the other meridians (located in the hollows below the tips of your collarbone). Kidney 27 is considered the “on” button of the body, and thumping or tapping or deeply mass-aging this point awakens all the energies of the meridians and gets your body’s energy moving forward. If your body’s energy isn’t moving forward, you are working at a 50 percent deficit, meaning the body can’t heal itself. It’s moving against its own energy. It’s like rowing against the current of a river.
Bladder, which is the longest meridian in the body, governs the nervous system. The Bladder meridian goes along the spinal column twice, once along a path that corresponds to your physical body and once along a path that corresponds to your emotional body.
See also Learn to Listen to Your Emotions with Meditation
In terms of psychology, the water element is the energy of the baby, the philosopher, and the king. This can be powerful, potent, and, when out of balance, dangerous. The main emotion that causes problems when water is out of balance is fear. And fear (along with anger, which is the wood element) can be one of the most debilitating and dangerous emotions.
Winter, the season associated with water, can be a fiercely lonely time. Holidays can bring up old hurts and make us feel disempowered or fearful. Turning our fear into hope, trust, faith, or courage is the balm we need to help us thrive through this season.
Working the Kidney and Bladder meridians through the following sequence will help you emerge from loneliness, depression, and fear into hope, growth, and abundance. In the depth of water, if you can hope for one small thing, it can help pull you out of the water. That’s what you need when you’re in that deep. It only requires you to believe that the possibility for change exists. This is the power of water. It is the start. It is the place where all potential lies.
See also Core Concept: Soften Your Middle for a Stronger Core
Excerpted from The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription, by Lauren Walker. Sounds True, August 2017. Reprinted with permission.
Study with Lauren
Learn more about Energy Medicine Yoga in Lauren’s six-week online course with
renowned energy healer Donna Eden and Yoga Journal. Sign up at
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