I never used to think of my wrists as being "strong." When I was a cheerleader in 6th grade (adorable, right?), I wore my mom's ganglion cyst brace to shield a newly forming bump and for extra support during cartwheels. I was determined not to have to go the book-smashing route (look it up if your curiosity gets the best of you), but honestly, my mobility was limited whether I was wearing that brace or not.
So what's a yogi to do? Many of us deal with feeling weak in this area at some point, as our practice often has us on our hands during Sun Salutations, arm balances, etc. For most people, the best advice really seems to be ... keep practicing. That does not mean to grit your teeth through all 38 Vasisthasanas (side planks) cued during your 90-minute Turbo Inferno vinyasa class (which I will not be attending with you, by the way), but rather to be mindful of when and how you set up and move each time you plant your palms to the mat. (And of course, if you feel you have a serious medical issue, make sure you are seeing the appropriate specialists.)
- Come down to your hands and knees and set up in Goasana (tabletop). Take a peek down to see how your shoulder lines up over your wrist. If it's further forward than your wrist (in other words, your wrist is slightly closer to your body than your shoulder is), you'll most likely feel undue pressure in this joint as the angle here is less. Whether it's tabletop, side plank or something similar, before you find your own expression of the posture consider moving your hand a bit closer to the front of your mat to see if that helps.
- Find some props. I love these cork hand wedges, but you might also consider rolling over the front edge of your mat to elevate your wrists, increasing the angle to your forearm. You don't even have a mat, you say? Try "cupcake hands," coming onto your fingertips as if they are surrounding a sweet morsel under your palm. This isn't appropriate for postures that require weight to be borne in the hands, but for some poses it allows you to find a little relief (and a nice lift in the core--who knew?)
- Try a variation of your posture. There are several for a shape like side plank, such as supporting yourself on your forearm instead of your palm, or dropping the bottom knee. What about taking tabletop instead of Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog)? Or how about skipping a few of the wrist challengers and just cutting yourself a break? Our bodies need rest as much as they need work, and avoiding overstressing this joint may provide the space to allow it to grow stronger.
- Give your wrists a rest--and have a little fun--with some post- (or even mid-) practice movements. This one is one of my favorite series by "Bad Yogi" Erin Motz a sweet, down-to-earth yogi I enjoy following. If you are fresh outta time, try just opening and closing fists like you mean it. Think about exploding fireworks as you do this and you'll start to bring the sensation all the way from your fingers to your wrists.
Thankfully, the hereditary Stak ganglion cyst never took hold with me. Nevertheless, I'll keep these habits as part of my practice to maintain my happy wrists. How do you keep this part of your body supporting you?