How to Cue Your Way Out of Pain in Yoga
There’s a super-common question that comes up with yoga teachers about wrist pain. Basically, how can I help people here? And there are lots of reasons it comes up so much.
1. Wrist pain is extremely common. Partly from the kinds of work people do, partly because of things that happen in yoga practice.
2. Wrist pain can be incredibly persistent. Something might work for a moment, but not exactly and only a little bit. Or nothing works. Or just when you think something is working back comes the pain, only it moved and now it’s worse!
If you’ve had wrist pain, you know all this already. And if you’re a yoga teacher, you’ve probably found yourself throwing one option after the other at your students. Try putting your wrists on a towel. Or a foam roller. Try pushing away the floor, pull your ribs in, stop dumping into that pose, ground down with all four corners of your hands, draw your energy from the floor up into your heart center. Try not doing yoga! Ok before we get to this one, probably there are some things we can do, that make our attempts to help much more predictably successful.
As a start, for things like wrist pain, nearly any change might help to temporarily redistribute the problem. But in your search for something sustainably helpful, you’ll probably want to look more at how you move, and less at static alignment cues and pose fixes. So to begin, it’s helpful to keep something in mind.
You can’t cue your way out of pain or injury, or into better performance. But, you can move your way into it.
Once you are where you are, you’ve done the work of creating the experience you’ll have of being here, for better and for worse. How you’re feeling, the results you’re seeing, have to do with how you get where you’re going. So working on movement – how you got here, and how you navigate your way around it – helps a bit more than getting to a place then trying to fix it with alignment cues.
Another way of saying this: it’s important to be in alignment with yourself the whole time, every step of the way. This will always work better than moving in a way that creates a bunch of problems, then trying to fix all this after you arrive.
For wrists specifically, the concept of unweighting found in tai chi is extremely helpful. We practice this in all our trainings now, often first in tai chi and qigong, and then applying it to yoga and everyday human movement.
The short version is, avoid holding in a static pose that’s uncomfortable, then tinkering one part at a time, trying to make it more comfortable, or “more healing. This might change things temporarily but doesn’t often work over time. Instead, practice moving always your whole body as a whole body.
For example in a place like plank or hands and knees in a yoga class, create a nice wide stable base that supports where you are, as well as where you want to go next, in this case, from left to right of center. Now lean your center over to one side, allowing your whole body to follow as a whole body, so the whole opposite side can “unweight” – release, relax, let go. Hang here for a few breaths, then head to the other side.
This is the beginning of unweighting practice, and keep in mind it needs more than just shifting from side to side to work. When you take the weight out, really let it go, using your exhales to release, rather than keep holding the same tension – particularly here in your fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, the whole connected chain. Practice this always, when you’re standing in line, on hands and knees, crawling or walking. When it’s part of all of life, wrists have a good chance of picking up the message, releasing tension and blocks that inhibit healing, and finally, healing.
And there’s one more related thought for wrists and healing, which applies just as easily to every part of you. You always have to ask a simple question. How did that hand get where it’s going? Or that foot, arm, or leg. This one is always important. In yoga or anything, if you place a part of you as a disconnected part, where you think it should be, then try to align it, you might get the visual of alignment and good position. But it’s not so much the reality of what you want.
You can’t think your way into alignment. But, you can move your way into it.
Hands, feet, arms, legs, you can’t think them all into the right place. But you can learn how to move. Connect everything you’ve got together as one whole body moving from center, and you won’t need to think or fuss your way into anything. You’re clearing the path for your body, your nature, to reassert itself in this way.
For practicers, you’ll find this is a whole new wonderful way to connect with your body, that allows you to do much more, including healing as needed.
And for teachers, it’s even more important to remember something here. Even if you haven’t experienced wrist pain yourself, you want to do these practices yourself. Hundreds of times, put this experience of unweighting, moving your whole body as one whole body from center, not a collection of disjointed parts, so all of you is no longer “thought” or fixed into alignment. You’re moved in it, always, in everything you do.
From here, whether someone is asking for help with wrist pain or anything else, then you’ll have something to give, because it’s something you have. This is very different from trying to offer something you’ve read or studied, to other people who seem different from you.
Learning to move well, being in this process in this human body, nobody is so different from you. It takes away the separation. Now we can do something together. And if you’d like to read more, here’s some more on this topic.
Read more here: How You Do What You Do
About Strala Yoga
Strala combines the movement and healing wisdom of tai chi with the form vocabularies of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, to help people release stress, move easily through challenge, and live radiantly inspiring lives.
It begins with a mindset, that says our best way to get where we’re going is to feel good along the way. It also works miracles for whole health, helping us to find ease in our bodies and minds, and create the right conditions both for healing and optimal performance.
In our Strala Yoga Training Courses, you learn to shape your destiny on every level that counts, from your psychology, chemistry and neurology, to your chromosomes and even gene expression. The unique set of skills you develop – for connecting with yourself and others, unblocking your energy, healing what needs healing and accomplishing challenge with ease – uncovers your ability to create the life you want, and be an inspiring leader to the people around you.