Strong wrists, strong mind
There are many parts of our bodies which we take for granted until they tweak or twist, forcing us to pay them attention. If you sprain your ankle or cut your thumb that pain jolts you into paying attention to the body part (the ‘part’, that phrase within itself sounds so removed and abstract), which so very often goes unnoticed. How often you spare a thought for your ankles until they hurt? I can certainly say for myself that I often don’t give them a second glance most of the time.
I often forget about my wrists until it comes down to practice, which is honestly a travesty. These clicky, bony bits at the end of your arms not only facilitate movement but they also allow us to connect and interact with the world around us, so how is it that we so often ignore them, jam them into awkward positions and then curse them when they cannot hold us up (I can’t be the only guilty party who has cursed at my arms when I’m in Downward Dog, can I?).
In my research, it’s not surprising that in other cultures wrists are given the respect they so deserve. In traditional Chinese medicine, wrists signal the overall health of your major organs. The pulse felt in the radial artery (on the left hand you can find it to the left of the main tendon which should be quite prominent and hard) in the left wrist is home to the heart, liver and kidney (yin) and in the right wrist houses the lungs, spleen and kidneys (yang). Upon examining these pulse points, experienced practitioners can advise on prevention based health care rather than relying on the reactive system that is popular in western medicine.
If you want to work on your body in a holistic, connected way, why not start by giving a little attention to strengthening your wrists. When I first started yoga my wrists were incredibly weak and it made many asana incredibly uncomfortable to get into. As my wrists got sore my shoulders fell out of alignment, making my weight pull forward and collapse more (ironically) into my upper arms, creating more pressure on my poor wrists. After lots of practice and time dedicated to wrist and upper body strengthening poses, I have seen a marked difference in my wrist strength which has helped my planks, dogs and a whole number of other inversions become more stable, less painful and overall more enjoyable to transition into. This is what brings me back to my practice day after day which makes me function better in the world, all from looking after my little wristies!
Top poses for wrists
Table-top is an excellent starter position for your wrist journey. When you get there, lengthen through your spine and make sure your gaze is down to the ground so you aren’t crunching through your neck. Pull up through your midline, feeling the thread running from your crown to your tail and press into the tops of your feet firmly. Push through the web in-between your finger and thumb and into each fingertip, whilst making sure you aren’t collapsing through your shoulders. Try and hold this position for about 10 breaths to start and then work your way up. Staying contained and present is a lot harder than you expect in this simple seeming pose but there’s a lot going on here! Don’t underestimate the power of the table!
Even though it will be sore at the beginning of your wrist journey, this pose will help you start to build the strength that you need in your wrists. Try pressing into each fingertip next time you are in this inversion and it will take 90% of the pressure out of your wrists. Also try pushing down through your heels and taking your hips further back whilst pressing into the ball joint underneath your pointer finger, this also helps alleviate the soreness.
Forward fold with something extra
To release some soreness, take a standing forward fold but slide your hands underneath the soles of your feet and until your toes touch the creases of your wrists and press down through your toes onto the palms of your hands. You can wiggle your toes to move pressure around through your hands, try to hold it for at least 10 breaths. This will not only release your lower back, reduce stress and get your brain nice and oxygenated, but your wrists will be thanking you for the release after all the hard work you’ve been doing.
Lots of love and happy wrist building!