I hear often from both students and teachers of Yoga about complaints of wrist pain in Downward Facing Dog. Some people see Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svasana as a rest pose. Downward Dog is in fact a rest pose as part of the Vinyasa or Sun Salutation sequence but it is actually very active. Let’s take a look at the pose.
Benefits of Downward Dog:
The physical benefits of Downward Dog are many and include:
- Energizes the body
- Stretches the posterior chain of the body including shoulders, back, and hamstrings
- Strengthens core, arms and legs
Why Can it be uncomfortable?
The reason that most students feel pain or discomfort in the wrist in this pose is to do with weight. Downward Dog requires a lot of distribution of weight. The number one reason for wrist pain in this pose is that the student may just be dumping their weight into the wrists. Meaning they are using their wrists to support the majority of their body weight by putting too much of it forward. So how can we fix this?
A Better Downward Dog
Have the student engage the muscles of the upper back and shoulders more by externally rotating the arm and shoulders slightly and keeping the shoulder blades on the back. This will create more strength in the arms and upper body to be able to hold the weight and create more support. Make sure that all the fingers are spread and the weight is evenly distributed through the finger pads of all fingers especially the pinkie and thumb. By pushing equally into the pads of the fingers they can create some space in the palm and wrist and take weight off of the carpal tunnel. Sometimes the pain in the wrist can be inflexibility in those muscles and in the arm.
Now have the student push back more into the heels to transfer some of the body weight into the legs to take some out of the arms and wrists. They can still do this with a bent knee if they have tight hamstrings. Now have them activate the core muscles as well as the glutes. Activate the inner thighs and keep reaching the sit bones up and back.
Some great modifications are:
- Roll up a mat or use a wedge under palm of hand so there is less bend at the wrist
- Put the student in Dolphin Pose (same as Downward Dog but on forearms). Have them keep forearms and palms flat and put a block between their thumbs.
- Have them work on developing more wrist flexibility and strength by doing arm exercises with small pound weights.
Just a few adjustments in the body can help bring awareness to how the body weight is balanced in this pose. I hope these tips and modifications are useful for you and your students. Namaste!