You'd be surprised how many times you find yourself in a Downward-Facing Dog in a general yoga flow class. It's a go-to asana, considered by some as a "resting pose" between yoga sequences. I'll take Child's Pose any day, thanks!
Power transitions broken up with Chaturangas and Downward Dogs, will also involve far more planks and Upward Facing Dogs than you bargained for. Those table-top positions that turn into balancing on one hand and one knee, that eventuate into a forearm balance, are certainly going to clock up the time you spend on your wrists.
Here are my 7 all-time favourite wrist exercises, to stretch and strengthen, that you can integrate into your classes, practise at work, or do while watching television in the evening:
Bring hands together into anjali mudra at hearts centre, actively pressing the finger pads together, as you feel the heat and energy building between your palms. Without moving the height of your elbows, begin to lower your wrists, keeping the palms engaged, to feel a delicious stretch in your wrist extensors. Now begin to turn your fingers to point down towards the ground, keeping the palms together. Can you get your fingers to point directly to the floor? Return your fingers skywards and then bring the backs of your hands together, fingers pointing downwards, and wrists connecting. Maintaining this form, slowly begin to lower your elbows and feel an incredible release into your forearm muscles that are responsible for movement of the wrist and fingers. Release and roll out your wrists.
Reverse anjali mudra is a firm favourite amongst my yogi friends. Palms join behind your back, ideally between the shoulder blades. To do this, roll the shoulders down and back, opening the front of the chest. When you bring the hands together behind your back, try to seal the hands together at the base of your palms.
In table top, spread your fingers like you are playing the piano, pressing down into your finger pads to provide greater support for your wrists. Bring shoulders to align over your wrists and focus on maintaining a neutral spine and pelvis. Don't dump down into your hands, but rather push away from the mat, broadening your upper back and engage the abdominal muscles. Begin to rock, with control, gently backwards and forwards. You must maintain full awareness of all sensations in your wrists. Continue for 3-5 breathes and then return to table top. Turn your fingers to point outwards, palms still flat to the mat, making sure to press down into your thumb. Don't forget to use it! Gently rock from side to side for 3-5 breathes. Return you fingers to face forward once more. Next, keeping the palm facing down, rotate the fingers of one hand outward 180 degrees so that your fingertips point towards your knee. Feel a stretch in the back of your wrist, using your other hand to monitor the weight you feel is suitable in this pose. Stay for 3-5 breathes and then return your fingers back to centre. Repeat on the other hand. Now turn the palm of one hand up, fingers directed towards your knee, back of the hand on the mat, the wrist staying grounded. Use the other hand for support. Feel a stretch at the front of the wrist and into your forearm. If it feels good and you'd like to deepen this pose, continue to move your sitting bones backwards, slowly increasing the angle at the wrist. Stay here for 3-5 breathes and release. Repeat on the other side.
Staying in table top position, lift up onto your fingertips as you inhale, and then release back down onto your palms as you exhale. Remember slow and controlled, one breath one movement. Repeat 5-10 times. This is a phenomenal wrist strengthening exercise.
Speaking of wrist strengthening, bring your hands into fists, the outside of your fists parallel to the edges of your yoga mat. Keep your knees on the ground, or come into a plank position with knees lifted to take the pose up a notch.
Last but definitely not least, gorilla grip. Fold at the hips with your feet hip width apart. Bend your knees if necessary, bringing the tops of the hands to the floor and palms facing the sky, fingers pointing to the back of the room. Gently lift your toes and slide your hands under your feet all the way so that the insides of your wrists are kissing the tips of your toes. Let your head hang heavy as you begin to bend at the elbows using your arms to actively pull on your feet, naturally straightening your legs. It’s okay if your legs can’t straighten all the way today. In time and with practice, it’ll get there. Don’t force, just love. Breathe here for 5 slow deep breaths. Try not to check out. Focus on every inhale, extend your hips towards the sky and every exhale bend a tiny bit more at the elbows and folding even deeper. Gently release the hands from underneath the feet and with your knees slightly bent, slowly come up one vertebrae at a time, chin and head comes up last.
If you use a computer mouse or do other work that moves your wrist from side to side repeatedly, or if you are feeling tightness in your forearm, you may need a stretch for your ulnar nerve. With your arms at your sides, bend your elbows and bring your hands in front of your chest, palms facing you. Bring your index fingers and thumbs to touch (making an okay sign, or jnana mudra with both hands) and straighten your other three fingers. Lift your hands and slowly rotate your wrists to turn the palms first up toward the ceiling, then toward your face, leading with your pinky fingers. Encircle your eyes with your index fingers and thumbs, bringing your free fingers to your cheeks and pointing them down toward your chin, as if making a mask. Hold the “mask” for a few breaths. Slowly lower your hands to their starting position in front of your chest. Repeat this sequence 5-10 times.
These wrist exercises will help to improve circulation in the hands and wrists by temporarily blocking the blood flow, for example in Gorilla Grip, with the weight of your feet and body. When released, fresh oxygenated blood flows to the hands and wrists. A great lifestyle choice to assist carpal tunnel syndrome prevention.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Stress less with this one mindful step and How can I keep up a regular yoga practise?