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Adjustments for Downward Dog

I have students with wrist pain who have trouble with Downward Dog. Some put their hands in a fist to alleviate the pain in the pose, but I remember reading that this is not a good adaptation. What would be a good adjustment?
— Marguerite

ana_forrest

Read Ana Forrest's response:

Dear Marguerite,

I have struggled with wrist pain for many years, and I have learned that it is opening the hands and making space in the hand bones and wrist bones that strengthens and heals this vital area. Students need to learn to spread the fingers and bones in the back of the hands, as well as across the palm. This means spreading the palm, from the little finger to the thumb, as wide as possible. Massage the hand to help flatten the palm and create space in the bones.

Your students can also do a lot of arm strengthening that doesn't put weight on the wrists. Dolphin Pose, Dolphin Pose with elbows at the wall, and Forearm Balance are all good poses for this. Emphasize pushing down on the balls of the hand (the metacarpals) and the inner wrist.

Students can do Downward Dog eventually if they settle their weight in the heels of the feet so that the angle of the wrist is flatter. Put padding under the heel of the hand to help get space in the metacarpals; the pads of the thumbs must remain flat. When working with wrist injuries or very weak wrists, use wrist braces any time there is going to be a weight-bearing practice.

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Reader Comments

Kari

For Janna... Dolphin pose with elbows on the wall ...start on all fours with your feet just touching a wall behind you. Lower onto your elbows clasping hands and tucking your lower pinky so weight is on elbows and forearms. Raise your knees off the floor to go into dolphin and then one foot at a time place your feet on wall so that legs are horizontal to the floor. You may have to adjust your distance to the wall to get the right balance point so that your feet are flat on the wall. This is one of my favorite poses.

kim

Anna uses wrist braces when practicing and she mentions them in the article, but she does not advise which ones she uses. Does anyone know?

Margie

I have found a completely different alternative in this situation, you can actually use first two knuckles of the hand (imagine a triangle) as a great foundation and lift your palm completely off the floor. The thumb moves in and just give a little support in balance. This little adjustment creates more shoulder integration, which give stronger, broader support overall in the pose and completely takes pressure off the wrists. My Mother who has osteoporosis and arthritis, suffered from a broken wrist 2 years ago, found this a much easier way to hold Downward Dog.

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