Yoga Adaptations and Props for Wrist Pain

Yoga pose
Dolphin Pose. © Barry Stone

Many yoga poses, such as plank and chaturanga, rely on putting weight on your wrists. This can be quite difficult and painful if you have a condition like osteoarthritis or are dealing with a wrist injury.

There are ways to works around this, reduce the pressure on your wrists, and continue building your upper body strength. Depending on your medical restrictions and level of pain, a number of adaptations may allow you to safely practice these poses.

Adaptations for Mild Wrist Pain

For those who have occasional, mild wrist pain, changing the way you place weight on your hands may be enough. In poses like downward facing dog, there is a tendency to dig the wrists into the mat, which causes pain. To counteract this, you must pay attention to how you place your hands in every weight-bearing pose.

Begin by spreading your fingers nice and wide. Make sure your middle fingers are parallel to one another. Bring pressure into each of your fingers, all the way down to the tips. At the same time, remember to engage your leg muscles strongly so they can carry some of your weight. All of this will lighten the load on your wrists, which may be enough to relieve the pain.

Another option is to make your hands into fists in these poses. This allows the weight to fall on your knuckles. Be sure to move into the position slowly and focus on protecting your wrists from unnecessary bending that may cause additional strain.

Props for Severe Wrist Pain

Those with severe wrist issues may be able to get some relief from props. A yoga wedge made of foam or cork can be used under your wrists to soften the angle of extension. Barbell-like blocks and wheels that are designed for aiding push-ups are another option to look into. Many of these allow you to keep the wrist in a neutral position while in poses like plank and chaturanga.

Alternative Poses

Finally, we come to the solution for those with the most severe wrist problems: avoidance. This is the approach you'll need to take if none of the above solutions allow you to do poses without pain. It's also the only option if your doctor advises you to avoid putting any pressure on your wrists at all.

You can still do poses like downward facing dog and plank, though you will need to come onto your forearms and go into dolphin pose instead. This takes the weight off your wrists, but still gives you the stretch the other poses offer. It will also help you work on your upper arm strength.

Poses like warrior II and this variation of an extended side angle, where the arms are held parallel to the floor, will also tone the biceps and triceps.

A Word From Verywell

It's important to remember to get your doctor's opinion on whether your condition precludes putting weight on the wrists. You can also ask an instructor to watch your form in any of these adaptations when you're starting out. They will be able to provide more tips to help you further relieve the pressure so you can continue to enjoy your practice.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nance EM, Byun DJ, Endo Y, Wolfe SW, Lee SK. Dorsal wrist pain in the extended wrist-loading position: An MRI study. J Wrist Surg. 2017;6(4):276-279. doi:10.1055/s-0037-1599829

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.