Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body


Wrist Stretches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Wedge by Harmony on February 8, 2011

This is a continuation of last week’s article on Yoga and Your Wrists.  Here are a couple of the wrist stretches recommended by Marian Garfinkel, who has created a whole series of yoga asanas for Carpal Tunnel.  In addition to stretching, using props – such as a yoga wedge –  to help reduce the angle of extension can help you during your practice.

The Yoga Prescription: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Five minutes a day can help anyone get the benefits of yoga, says Marian Garfinkel, doctor of education, senior Iyengar yoga instructor, and lead author of a promising study on the effectiveness of yoga for carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel sufferers who attended an eight-week, twice-weekly yoga class had less pain, greater flexibility, and a stronger grip than those who wore a wrist splint, the standard treatment for the condition. Whether your hands hurt because of too much time at the computer keyboard, other repetitive stress injuries, or even a chronic illness such as arthritis, “A few simple stretches can really help,” says Dr. Garfinkel. She recommends the following three exercises to help you get started.

Overhead arm extension (urdhva hastasana)
Do this first thing in the morning, or as a break during the day.

Stand straight, with feet parallel and arms at your sides: a posture that promotes blood flow to the hands. Stretch your arms and fingers straight out in front of you, palms facing the floor. Keeping the arms and elbows straight, slowly raise your arms over the head to the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions, inhaling through the nose. Be sure to keep your throat and shoulders relaxed. Lift the sides of the body, keeping the shoulders away from the head. Maintain for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Exhale and lower your arms to your sides. If you feel the blood flowing through your hands, says Dr. Garfinkel, it’s a sign you’ve done the exercise correctly.

Trunk extension (dandasana)
A good exercise for the office or anywhere you’re seated.

Sit on a chair with your trunk upright. Place your hands at your sides and press the palms into the seat, taking care not to tense your shoulders or neck. Press shoulder blades into your back, moving the shoulders back and down. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Relax, then repeat. Spreading the chest and shoulders, Dr. Garfinkel explains, also has benefits for the wrists and hands.

Chair twists (bharadvajasana)

A more advanced position, also effective for back and neck pain.

Sit sideways in a chair, with the right hip and thigh towards the chair’s back. Keep the knees and feet together, with the heels aligned under the knees. Stretch your trunk upward and pull the shoulders back. With knees together and feet on the floor, turn your trunk towards the right and place both hands on the back of the chair. Pull with the left hand, bringing the left side of the body toward the back of the chair; at the same time, push with the palm of the right hand, moving the right side away from the chair back. Turn the body, then the head, and look over your right shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds. Relax. Repeat on the left side.

For additional information: Journal of the American Medical Association, 11/11/98. Dr. Marian Garfinkel teaches the Iyengar method of hatha yoga, which stresses precision and alignment; E-mail mariang102@aol.com. Contact the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Association (1-800-889-YOGA; http://www.comnet.org/iynaus) for a list of certified yoga instructors.

For more on vitamins, herbs, and other therapies for painful wrists, see our library entry on Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Date Posted: 01/22/2001

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Yoga and Your Wrists

Posted in How-To,Yoga Block,Yoga Wedge by Harmony on February 1, 2011
Examples on Using a Yoga Wedge

Examples on Using a Yoga Wedge

Wrist pain or strain can be a real challenge in yoga practice. Read on to learn more about why our wrists can add to a challenge of a pose and what we can do about it. Using your fists, a chair, yoga blocks or a yoga wedge are just some of your options to get relief.  Placing the heel of your hand on the wedge helps reduce the angle of extension in your wrists or the pressure placed on your wrists.

We sell both foam yoga wedges and cork yoga wedges.  Both offer a soft and grippy texture.

Bearing Up Under Pressure

We ask our wrists for strength and fexibility in yoga. Here are some pointers for keeping these complex joints safe and for rehabbing them if they’ve been strained.

By Julie Gudmestad / Yoga Journal

Almost every yoga class includes one or two people who complain of wrist problems. Perhaps their difficulties began with long hours at a computer keyboard, or with a hard fall on an outstretched hand, or even with doing asanas. Whatever the cause, the problem may be exacerbated by bearing weight on the hands in yoga.

Yet such weight bearing is a very important part of asana practice. If you’ve ever had a wrist problem, you know how much it can interfere with your yoga. Wrist injuries can be especially demoralizing if you prefer a vinyasa-based style, in which you place weight on the hands over and over again as you flow through the classic Sun Salutation series—which includes Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). If your wrists are strained, such asanas can cause you pain and further injury. Fortunately, a careful and gradual approach to increasing wrist flexibility and strength can help most students avoid problems—or rehabilitate the wrist if necessary.

A Vulnerable Marvel

Weight bearing on the arms seems to bring out the wrist’s vulnerability. After all, the wrist is a relatively small joint, and a lot of rather delicate tissues are packed into this small area. These tissues include ligaments that knit the wrist bones together, as well as tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the fingers and help give the fingers their remarkable dexterity. Strain or irritation in these tendons can be a major factor in wrist pain.

To understand what causes this kind of pain, it’s useful to consider the structure and function of a normal wrist. The wrist helps with control of the fine motor activities of the fingers and thumb by positioning and stabilizing the hand, which allows us to accomplish uniquely human endeavors like writing, drawing, and sewing. Most of the wrist’s movement occurs at the juncture of the radius (one of the two forearm bones) and several of the carpal bones, which sit deep in the heel of the hand. Some movement also occurs at the junctures between the individual carpal bones.

The movements of the wrist include abduction (bending the thumb side of the hand toward the thumb side of the forearm), adduction (bending the little-finger side of the hand toward the little-finger side of the forearm), flexion, and extension. In yoga, by far the most important of these—and probably the one most likely to bring you grief—is extension. To feel this wrist movement, sit in a chair with armrests and position one of your forearms on an armrest, palm facing the floor. Cock your hand up, pointing your fingers toward the ceiling. Your wrist is now in extension. If you let your hand drape over the end of the armrest and your fingers point toward the floor, your wrist will be in flexion.

Most likely, you spend a lot of time every day with your wrist in mild extension. The hand has its most powerful grip in this alignment, and this position is the one we use most often in daily activities. So your wrist probably spends very little time in full flexion or full extension. Since the wrist, like any joint, will lose any part of its range of motion that isn’t used regularly, most people gradually lose the ability to move easily and safely into full wrist extension (a 90-degree angle between the hand and forearm).

But as soon as you take a yoga pose in which you bear most or all of your weight on your hands, you demand extension from your wrists. Several of the postures in Sun Salutation—Plank, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana—require full extension, so performing the series over and over can put a cumulatively heavy load on the wrists. Arm balances like Bakasana (Crane Pose) and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) add insult to injury by pressing all of your body weight into your wrists while they are fully extended. Combining extreme range of motion with a heavy load and multiple repetitions can easily add up to strain.

Under such conditions, it shouldn’t be too surprising if the wrists send up a red flag: pain. I believe that a substantial part of yoga practitioners’ wrist pain is caused by soft-tissue strain that occurs when the ligaments and tendons are forced into extension beyond their customary range.

Wrist Rx

If your wrists have become sore from practicing poses in which you bear weight on your hands, you may need to eliminate these poses for a while to allow the inflamed tissues to heal. It will probably take several weeks for the pain and soreness to subside; then you can begin a program of gently stretching the wrists and gradually reintroducing weight bearing.

Before resuming the poses that require 90 degrees of extension—or before embarking on them, if you’re a beginning yoga practitioner—it’s a good idea to check the range of extension of your wrists. You can do this by coming to your hands and knees with the heels of your hands directly under your shoulders. Your wrists are now at 90 degrees of extension. Are they completely comfortable in this position? If not, you should work to gently and gradually increase your wrist extension.

An easy way to do this is to put your hands together in Namaste (Prayer Position) in front of your chest. Keeping the heels of your hands together and your fingers pointing up, gently press your hands down toward your waist. Don’t let the heels of your hands come apart; if you do, you’ll lose the wrist stretch. If you regularly hold this stretch for a minute or two as part of your daily routine, you’ll gradually be able to move the wrists into deeper extension.

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Uses for a Yoga Wedge

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Wedge by Harmony on September 14, 2010

Yoga Wedges provide support in poses when we can’t quite get our hands or feet flat on the floor. This is usually due to stiff ankles and wrists.  By placing a yoga wedge under our hands and feet we improve our stability within the pose and it allows us to achieve proper alignment without undue stress and strain on those joints.

Another time when we might choose to use a wedge would be in forward folds.  A slight lift of the sit bones allows us to fold forward more easily.  This lift can be achieved by sitting on a bolster, a block, a folded yoga blanket, or by using a wedge.  The prop you choose will depend on the amount of height you desire in the pose you are in.  For example, folding forward while sitting cross-legged may be more comfortable with some added height (like a bolster or block), but folding forward with legs extended straight (Staff Pose) may require just a slight lift that you would get from a blanket or a wedge.

We sell two different kinds of wedges:  Foam Yoga Wedges (two colors to choose from) or the eco-friendly Cork Yoga Wedge.

Click on the image below to enlarge:

Using a Yoga Wedge

Using a Yoga Wedge

Consider Cork

Posted in Company News,Green Yoga,Yoga Block,Yoga Wedge by Harmony on September 1, 2010

Why should I consider buying a Cork Yoga Block or Yoga Wedge?

Cork is an environmentally friendly choice over the standard chemically-made foam found in most yoga props (such as Yoga Blocks and Yoga Wedges). Here are just a few reasons to consider buying cork yoga props:

  • Cork is a renewable, sustainable material.
  • There are no toxic chemicals in the harvesting or manufacturing process.
  • It is harvested from the bark of Cork Oak. The bark naturally splits every 9 – 15 years and is harvested without harming the tree.
  • Cork will safely biodegrade by nature when these yoga props eventually must be retired.
  • A Cork Yoga Block or Wedge offers a soft texture that is easy to grip and is slip-resistant (similar to that of a foam block).
  • Cork blocks are firmer than foam blocks.
  • The drawback to the foam blocks is that they are chemically-made and can emit an odor when they are new (some people are more sensitive to these odors).  Cork is odor-free.

In addition to offering cork products as part of our “Green” line of yoga products, you can also find yoga blocks made from bamboo, balsa wood, and recycled materials .  Check out all of our Yoga Blocks and Wedges.

Prenatal Yoga – Volume II

The following Prenatal Yoga video using a Yoga Ball is the second in our four-part series. If you missed last week’s video, you may wish to start with that 10-minute video before watching this 9 1/2 minute continuation of this practice offered by Sara Varona.

In today’s practice you will practice doing the ever-so-important-for-pregnancy squats in which you will use the Yoga Ball, but you may also wish to add a Yoga Bolster, Yoga Blocks, or a Yoga Blanket if you struggle with doing squats with your heels flat on the floor. This is also a great time to use Yoga Wedges which will offer that stable, sloped angle to raise your heels and still have the necessary support.

In addition to squats, you will perform some arm-strengthening exercises – perfect practice for carrying your new baby!