Align Your Hands: 3 Ways to Ease Hand & Wrist Pain in Yoga

I have a secret to tell you.

All those cool float and hover maneuvers that are part of Sun Salutations? Can’t do ‘em.

Press up handstand? Nope.

My hands and wrists are holding me back.

Maybe it’s from all the rock climbing I do; my hands are really strong, but also really tight. Maybe it’s some kind of anatomical alignment. Either way, my wrists don’t bend to ninety degrees. The restriction limits me in my yoga practice.

The good news is I don’t have pain. Yay! I work daily to maintain the range of motion I do have and to hopefully increase it. In the process, I’ve learned three major components to good hand alignment which inadvertently ease hand and wrist pain.

Vasisthasana in Sedona

Vasisthasana in Sedona

1. Location, Location, Location

In Down Dog, Up Dog & Plank 

In these three yoga poses most people place their hands too narrow. It makes it more difficult to maintain a stable foundation in the hands and restricts freedom in the neck, shoulders and upper torso (i.e. chest opening/back bending).

  • Align your hands a little wider than your shoulders to give freedom to your arms, shoulders, neck, and upper back.
  • Locate the centers of your wrists and place those spots directly under the outer edges of your shoulders.

In Side Plank

In poses like Side Plank (pictured at left), we need to move the supporting hand forward so the angle of the wrist is less severe. If the hand is placed directly under the shoulder the load will feel heavier and put more pressure on the wrist.

  • Set up on all fours.
  • Before you lift your knees off the ground, move your hands one hand print forward from directly under your shoulders.
  • Your hand will be under your head, not directly under your shoulder.

2. A Well Placed Foundation

Good alignment ensures no funny torquing or twisting in your hands and wrists, which will also protect your elbows and shoulders.

  • Make the creases of your wrists line up with each other, and parallel to the front (short) edge of your yoga mat.
  • There are four corners of each palm; press them down firmly into the ground. They are: 1.) base of the index finger 2.) base of the thumb 3.) base of the pinky finger 4.) outer heel of the hand.
  • Stretch through your fingers as if you were going to trace around them with a pencil. There’s no need to go to your maximum; you shouldn’t be straining your hands to do this.

3. Work Your Hands

Passive hands equal unsupported joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Engaging our hands gives us a solid foundation on which to build pain-free yoga postures. On an anatomical level it engages the retinaculum — a tendon that wraps around the wrist like a bracelet — to support the wrist itself, as well as all the tendons that pass through it.

  • Claw your fingertips into the floor enough that the muscles of your hands and wrists engage, but not so much that any of the four corners of your palm lift up. (Note: the middle knuckles may lift a little, but try to keep them straight).
  • Push the ridgetop — the line of knuckles where the fingers meet the palm — down firmly.