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May 20, 2014

Wrists: Do the “Rehab” Work Before the Injury Happens. ~ Kathryn Bruni-Young

handstand

Over the past few years I’ve had a unique obsession with my wrists.

I’ve spent a lot of time learning and creating wrist strength progressions for yogis. I practice a lot of handstands, always have and hopefully always will. The wrists are a main point of injury for long time yogis, especially within the ashtanga and vinyasa circles because we are constantly placing load on them.

This is a fact, but its something that can be prepped for and rehabbed in a lot of cases before the injuries even happen.

People have been coming to see me over the last six months in particular because I’m constantly finding new ways to stretch and strengthen these little tissues that tend to really take a beating.

I train in the gym with weights a lot right now and one thing I’ve really learned is there has to be a progression for everything. When we begin lifting weights, no coach in their right mind is going to instruct us to start out lifting our own body weight. Unless we are seriously genetically gifted, as a beginner we start with small weight and work our way up. When we begin deadlifting, we take the barbell, put 10 lbs on each side and start building up from there.

Regardless of whether or not we care about lifting weights, this is a great model to follow to avoid injuries.

When we do yoga we are lifting our body weight, which is a really important thing to be able to do.

To be able to control our own body is far more important than the ability to control objects outside our bodies. The problem with this is when we take a yoga class, everyone is instructed to step back to plank pose likely on day one and there we have our full weight on our wrists. For some students this isn’t going to be a problem, but this starts to become an area of injury for people who practice weight bearing poses day in day out for years at a time.

Why is it a problem and how can we help?

The wrists are not made to support and control the weight of the entire body. They can if they have to, but it’s not what they were designed for. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do handstands and push ups, it means we have to learn to prep the joints first. I always begin my classes with wrist exercises for strength and mobility because I think it’s important to have a progression towards stronger joints.

Every time I do wrist exercises it’s like I’m back in the gym learning my deadlift and adding a small weight to each end of the bar.

Each day, every week I do more wrist prep to ensure that these small joints are ready to support and control my body weight. The more prep work we do, the happier and more able our joints are going to be. There has to be a strength progression in yoga, we can’t expect our students to practice plank to pushup, arm balances and handstands injury free if we don’t give them the proper prep work.

If your yoga teacher isn’t doing wrist work and you are having issues, ask them about it. If they don’t have a great answer, which not all do, talk to a gymnastics specialist.

The best wrist work I’ve learned has come from gymnastics and body weight specialists. As a movement artist, I spend hours on my hands. Whether I’m doing yoga or walking across the floor on my hands, I can’t afford to have sore wrists. I teach handstand workshops all over Toronto and in other Canadian cities. The first hour of the workshop is dedicated to wrist health.

I think it is so important that teachers and students have the tools to get to know their body in a different way, to begin the “rehab” work before injuries happen.

~

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