Friday, February 29, 2008

Reconsidering the Wrists

I was cruising around to various yoga blogs this evening, looking for inspiration for this week's post. I'm trying to visit everyone regularly (new Xmas laptop does wonders for the screen time) and see what's going on. There's so much out there these days; it's exciting to see how each blog deals with the subject differently. Namaste from Duluth had an extensive discussion of Down Dog, that got me thinking about one of my favorite instructions for that pose.

I thought I had talked about this before in an earlier post on wrists, but after a leisurely scroll down memory lane, I realized I hadn't. My teacher used to instruct us to place our hands so that the wrist crease was parallel to the top edge of the mat to prevent the elbows from hyper-extending. I never realized why that helped until I did the reading for that earlier post. By lining the wrists up, you "square" the insertions of the radius and ulna of the lower arm. When they are crossed (elbow creases thrust forward) the elbows lock and you end up holding the pose by resting the bones against each other, instead of using the muscles of the chest. Sort of the same logic behind engaging the thigh muscles in Trikonasa or Virabhadrasana II so that the knees don't lock and make the pose rigid.

Give it a try for either Urdhva or Adho Mukha Svanasana, various arm balances or Plank. It is much harder to hold these poses when the bones are un-locked; therefore strengthening the pectorals and biceps (which is gentler on the wrists).

I think my students often wonder why so much time is spent arranging the hands and arms for Dog. But once they are up, they notice the difference in the work of the torso (I hope) and it gives them a focus for the arms. I've also been sliding a rolled blanket under their heels if they are quite far off the floor to give them some support so they can lengthen behind the knees...but that is a discussion for another post.

P.S. I highly advise a glance at old posts. Like flipping thru a photo album, it's fun to reminisce about what inspired a certain article or what you were thinking when you had to rant (or rave). I wrote my 100th post a few weeks ago and forgot to commemorate it...looking back is an acknowledgement of all that work. Whew.


Kristin said...

How very interesting! The way I was taught was to keep the middle finger pointing straight ahead while pressing the palms into the mat and rotating the inner elbow toward the ceiling.

To me it is much more clear to line the wrists up with the front of the mat and I could see this being a more concise way to bring the pose to the students.


Brenda Plakans said...

I tried and, actually, if you keep the middle finger pointed forward and rotate the elbows, they end up facing each other anyway. I could see how the instruction to rotate the elbow to the ceiling would keep you thinking about working the upper arms instead of letting them go soft or bending slightly.

I find many of my students get tired and let the "balls" of their hands lift off the mat and their arms soften, so thinking about the ceiling might help them later in the pose.

I'll give it a try!

Nadine Fawell said...

Great post!
I wonder if you can clear something up for me: I generally teach this alignment, but (gasp!) don't practice it - it seems to grind my wrists horribly, probably because I have very poor internal forearm rotation (radius longer than ulna or something?)Do you think it's OK for me to be practicing with the arms fairly far apart and a little externally rotated?

Kristin said...

I used your comment about lining the crease of the wrists up with the edge of the mat in my Monday night classes and it seemed to resonate with several of the students. I noticed folks checking on their wrists as we moved through our sun salutations.

Thanks again for the observation and insight!

Brenda Plakans said...

Well, I'm no physical therapist, so it's a little hard to know what would help...but try this. When I do arm balances I find the pressure on my wrists is uncomfortable so I open up the angle of wrist to arm with a rolled blanket or block under the heel of my hand. This also allows the fingers to curl a bit which makes the pose more comfortable (not that I'm holding arm balances for very long!)

If the bones are slightly uneven, opening up that space and cushioning the heel of the hand may give you some relief.

Sorry to hear So Africa is causing you some much pain...but what an exciting adventure you are about to start!

Jane said...

This is something I need to try. Thank you, Brenda.

I found recently that I had been having some problems with my wrists. Since going back to work and doing 9-past 5 work on a computer, I find my wrists getting more painful and somehow this has affected my ability to do some asanas requiring wrist pressure.

I've linked you up, if you don't mind.