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The Ultimate Guide to Protecting Your Wrists in Wheel Pose

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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

Learn how to be mindful of wrists and hands in Wheel Pose.

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

Practice these wrist exercises throughout the day.

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. 



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Here's How to Make Sure Yoga Journal's Newsletters Land in Your Gmail Primary Inbox

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Wondering why you aren’t getting Yoga Journal emails anymore? Follow this guide below to get our newsletter out of your promotions folder and into your primary inbox in Gmail.

Your Yoga Journal newsletters might be hiding out in the promotions tab in Gmail. But don’t fret! It’s a quick fix and we’re here to help. 

Gmail Desktop Users

Here’s how to update your preferences on your desktop:

  1. Click on your “promotions” tab
  2. Find an email from Yoga Journal
  3. Click and grab the email
  4. While still holding down the mouse, drop the email into your “primary” tab
Drag our newsletter from the “promotions” tab to the “primary” tab, and you’re done!

Gmail Mobile App Users

If you read us on your phone, you can add us to your primary inbox in four easy steps.

Here’s how to update your preference on your mobile Gmail app. 

1. Open our newsletter in the “Promotions” tab

2. Click the three dots in the upper righthand corner

3. Click “Move to” 

4. Select “Primary” 

Still having trouble? Email us at yogajournal@yogajournal.com for help. 



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Tempted to Skip Savasana? 10 Top Yoga Teachers Explain Why It’s the Most Important Pose

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When you’re time-crunched, it can be tempting to sneak out of yoga class before this final resting pose. Here’s why you should reconsider.

Thinking about not staying for Savasana (Corpse Pose) at the end of yoga class? Top yoga teachers explain the benefits of Savasana, and why it’s important for your yoga practice.

After teaching yoga in New York City for more than three years, I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter how early the class starts or whether or not the class ends exactly on time, there will always be one or two people who leave before Savasana. I get it: Skipping the final 10 minutes of class to get in the shower early or head out of the studio before the rush may seem like a smart idea. However, most teachers —including myself—say that Savasana is an essential pose, and one you should never skip.

See also Watch + Learn: Corpse Pose

Here, nine top yoga teachers talk about the incredible benefits of Savasana. Will they tempt you to stay?



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Fashion & Beauty

The 6 Best Undies to Wear Under Your Yoga Pants

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The right underwear can make or break how comfortable (and fidget-free!) you stay during your practice.

Don’t want to go commando during yoga, but not sure which underwear will work best under your favorite yoga pants? Here are Yoga Journal’s top 6 picks for the best underwear for yoga.

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. 



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