How to modify poses for weak or sore wrists

5 min read

The wrist is a complex joint made up of several bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, all working together to contribute to a multitude of movements. An integral part of yoga, strong and flexible wrists are crucial to many poses requiring flexion, extension, abduction, or adduction.

Vinyasa Yoga is difficult to imagine without wrist involvement due to the importance of Sun Salutations and the weight-bearing position on the arms. Even with perfect alignment, the wrists are put under a lot of pressure when you flow from Chaturanga into Upward Dog and Downward Dog. We’ve highlighted below modified versions of wrist-centric poses, which will reduce the strain on the joint and still reap the benefits.

Plank Modification: Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank is a great alternative to full Plank. The body weight is distributed evenly between the forearms, hands, and elbows. This reduces the impact on the wrists. The elbows should be at a 90-degree angle. Bring your forearms down to the floor. This angle will help you align your shoulders over elbows and elbows with your wrists. Step your feet back to the normal Plank position and engage your core.

Side Plank Modification: Forearm Side Plank

The wrists are protected by a Side Plank, which is similar to the Forearm Plank. Start in a grounded, right-side position. Bring the forearm of the right hand to the mat, with the palm facing the left edge. Assemble the left ankle over the right and align the shoulder above your elbow. Lift the hips, lift your feet, and press the forearm.

Chaturanga Modification: Knees-Chest-Chin (Ashtanga Namaskara)

Chaturanga is a reverse push-up that requires complete wrist extension. As an alternative, you can lower your chest, chin, and knees to the mat. Cow Pose: From the Table Top position, on all fours, sink the belly towards the ground. Reach the tailbone upwards and look slightly upwards. Keep the hips up and bend your elbows toward the ribs. Lower the chest and chin until they rest lightly on the floor. Skip this step if it puts too much pressure on your wrists, shoulders, or lower back.

Upward Dog Modification: Sphinx

The main purpose of the Upward Dog is to create an opening in the chest and back. The sphinx pose allows you to achieve this without putting strain on your wrists. In a prone pose, raise your torso by bringing your forearms at a 90-degree angle (again with elbows below the shoulders). Spread your fingers out wide, reaching towards the top of the mat. Draw your shoulder blades down and back along your spine. It would be best if you pressed your forearms into the floor, which will raise the chest.

Downward Dog Modification: Supported Down Dog

 Often, Downward Dog puts a lot of pressure on your wrists due to weakness and inflexibility. As the body moves forward more than you want it to, the wrists are put under more stress. To prevent the weight from falling onto the wrists, fold the mat and place the heel of the hand on the elevated part. This will relieve the pressure on your wrists because the weight is distributed evenly throughout your hands.

Arm Balance Modification: Supported Crow

It isn’t easy to balance on your hands. Some arm balances like Crow Pose require a complete 90-degree (or more!) extension of the wrist joints. Even without adding weight, this is a difficult stretch.

It may be useful to lower the angle of your wrist when modifying Crow (or other arm balances) by putting the heel of your hand on a bolster. Fold your mat in half to create a shelf to hold your hand. The rest of your fingers can still grip the mat. Hands should be at shoulder width apart, fingers spread wide, and weight evenly distributed on all four corners of the palm. This will help protect your wrists. As soon as you are ready, hug your knees to your arms and shift your torso and hips forward. Lift one foot, then the other. The heels should reach toward your buttocks. Distribute your weight evenly between your hands, and engage your core.

Wheel Modification: Bridge

The wrists are also in an extended position when doing Wheel Pose. To ease wrist tension in the full Wheel, you can elevate the heels of your hands. Bridge Pose is a better alternative if you still feel uncomfortable. Bend your knees in a supine posture and place your soles on the ground. Your fingertips should barely touch the heels of your feet when you extend your arms. Then, lift your hips off the floor by pressing firmly on your feet and hands. Maintain a neutral neck position.


Stretching and strengthening are always linked. Stretches such as wrist circles can help relieve soreness and increase weight tolerance. Wrist flexibility will allow for more complex hand articulations and a wider range of motion in poses like arm balances. It doesn’t take much to gain wrist strength. The wrists can be strengthened even in poses that do not require weight bearing. Engaging the hands and spreading out the fingers without excessive pressure on the wrists will help.

Honor your body by taking caution when you feel sore. Take the necessary modifications if you have weak wrists. But keep in mind, it could also be something else. Interconnectedness doesn’t end at the wrist. All parts of the body are interconnected. Building strength and flexibility within another muscle, such as the shoulders, core, or triceps, can result in stronger wrists, which in turn will shift pressure to other muscles.

The final takeaway? Remember that you can modify any pose that involves hand-to-mat contact to reduce the impact. This could be done by reducing the angle of flexion/extension, using a different position that targets similar muscles, or modifying the forearm/mat contact.

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