Avoiding Wrist Pain in Yoga: 10 Tips For a Wrist Pain-Free Practice

Avoiding Wrist Pain in Yoga: 10 Tips For a Wrist Pain-Free Practice

Throughout my experience as a yoga instructor, the most common complaint that I hear from students is that they experience wrist pain during practice. Some students are experiencing pain due to wrist injury, osteoarthritis, and/or carpal tunnel syndrome, while others may be new to yoga and need to build the wrist strength necessary for yoga’s weight-bearing poses. Whatever the cause, yoga can be very therapeutic—as long as the poses are executed with proper alignment.

Here are some tips to help lighten your load and avoid wrist pain in yoga.

* Remember, if you have chronic wrist pain, (or any chronic pain for that matter), you should always consult your doctor before practicing yoga. Explain to your doctor what poses you have questions about, as many doctors associate yoga with meditation and will give approval unknowingly.


  1. Before you begin, stretch!

    Come to hands and knees position, lining up your wrist creases parallel to the front of your mat with palms directly under shoulders, hiding your feet behind your knees. Hold the position for at least 1 minute. If this is too painful, begin with your hands a bit in front of your shoulders, gradually walking the hands beneath the shoulders as pain alleviates.

    Stretch #2: Bring your right arm straight out in front of you, palm up. Use your left hand to draw your fingers to the floor until you feel a stretch in your right forearm. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch arms.

    Stretch #3: Bring your right arm straight in front of you again, this time palm facing down. Use your left hand to press the top of your right hand towards your torso until you feel a forearm stretch, making sure that your right elbow remains straight. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch arms.

    Stretch #4: Bring your hands to Namaste, but press the backs of the hands together, fingertips facing downward. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

  2. Set up your base.

    When setting up your hands for downward dog, plank, and chaturanga, spread your fingers as wide as you can to create support for your wrists. Check to make sure that wrist creases are parallel to the front of your mat, and middle fingers are pointing straight forward. Root down with your thumb and forefinger to lessen wrist pain.

  3. Shift your weight in downward dog.

    Send your weight to your legs and heels to bring pressure off of the wrists.

  4. Use your forearms.

    If wrist pain is too intense, choose to do plank and downward dog on your forearms instead of your palms, making sure that your forearms are spread shoulder width apart, parallel to each other. Keep the thumbs and forefingers pressing down, and with a flat back, lift and broaden the space between your shoulder blades for support. Enjoy the strength in your core!

  5. Choose cobra instead of upward dog.

    Focus your energy on the lower back, elevating your chest and crown. You can even lift your hands completely off the mat if you wish.

  6. Modify.

    In Vasisthasana (side plank), place your hand a bit in front of our shoulder (about 6 inches or so) to reduce strain.

  7. Avoid using Fists!

    According to Dario Frederick, exercise physiologist and Iyengar yoga instructor with 12 years yoga experience, downward dog and plank should not be practiced on the fists. Using the fists may be less painful, but it won’t eliminate the strain. Practicing with closed fists tightens the area between the upper thoracic spine and the tops of the shoulder blades, exacerbating the muscular and energetic congestion.

  8. Use props.

    Wear wrist braces as a reminder to baby your wrists. Put padding under the heel of the hand to widen the space between metacarpals. Amazon.com sells yoga foam wedges for around $15.

  9. Avoid certain poses.

    Discontinue any pose that causes sharp pain or worsens symptoms. It may be a good idea to avoid arm balances (such as crow and shoulder pressure pose) and handstands altogether if wrist pain is intense.

  10. Let your instructor know!

    It is always a good idea to let your instructor know of any injuries. He/she can suggest alternate poses and help with proper alignment.


Armstrong, Dr. Robin. “Dr. Robin Armstrong: Avoiding Wrist Pain in Yoga.” Joy Yoga. 02 April 2009. Web 6 Oct 2009.

Frederick, Dario. “Why You Shouldn’t Downdog with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” Yoga Journal. N. pag. Web. 6 Oct 2009.

Kelli Russell
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  • RayAnthony
    Posted at 13:57h, 07 January Reply

    How did you know! Wrists are always an issue. Thanks for the tips. I often where braces and having more body weight than most it’s allot of pressure in tougher poses.
    Thanks Coach 😉
    Great Class this morning, appriciate you immensly

    • Kelli
      Posted at 14:22h, 14 January Reply

      Glad the article could help, Ray! Always a pleasure to see your smile in class!

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