Pulling My Weight

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One day in 2005, I woke up to such intense wrist pain that I thought I must have broken my wrist without knowing it. Reaching for a glass was intensely painful, and typing was excruciating. I had no idea what happened, but after a day or two, I set up an appointment with my doctor.

The doctor took one look at my wrist and didn’t even order an x-ray (which I was totally expecting. How else would you explain a spontaneous wrist fracture?). It turns out that I had a ganglion cyst on my right wrist. Mine is on the top side of my wrist. Apparently, the old-time cure for this was to have someone smack the cyst really hard with a Bible. Why a Bible? I’m not sure, but I’m assuming it’s because it was probably the biggest book many people had lying around.

As much fun as that sounded (and because I thought my wrist might actually break if someone did that to me), I decided to skip that option. I kept up with my yoga practice, making adjustments as needed. One day in yoga class, we were doing a lot of Down Dogs, and my wrist was killing me. So instead of Down Dog, I practiced Child’s Pose. The teacher came up to me and said “Don’t worry. Yoga is hard; you’ll get there someday.” Although she may have had a good intention, she didn’t know why I was resting. It wasn’t because yoga is “hard” (a claim I’d like to dispute anyway because yoga can and should be customized to where you are in your life). It was because my wrist was hurting like a mofo.

Poses that bear weight on the wrists are often difficult for me for two reasons: (1) the cyst and (2) because I have extra weight to support. I’m a big girl. And no, I don’t mean that metaphorically.

If you’re like me and are rocking some curves (or are trying to avoid a wrist/heavy book collision), check out these tips for wrist relief:

1. Use a wedge: Wedges give you an incline for your hand. By not pressing the hand completely onto the floor, pressure is taken off the wrist. If you don’t have a wedge around, you could also experiment with rolling up the edge of a blanket or towel (or even the edge of your mat).

2. Stretch it out: Yes, your wrists will be moving quite a bit already during your yoga practice. However, if you take a minute or two to stretch themand/or shake them out before and after your practice, you’ll be surprised at how much it can help. I also like Sadie Nardini’s Magic Wrist Clear (okay, you’re right; I like the name as much as the actual action).

3. Try something new: Consider doing your practice without any (or at least many) poses where you have to bear weight on your wrists. I know this sounds a little crazy. No Down Dog? How will I do my Sun Salutations? Try chair or wall salutations for a change and experience the pleasure of creating a practice that works for your body.

Written by the curvy yogi herself, Anna Guest-Jelley

Anna Guest-Jelley is an advocate for women’s rights by day, a yoga teacher by night, and a puppies’ mama all the time. She is making her way through life with joy, curves and all. Visit her at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Nefeli Makri -Yogalife

    I have ganglions in both my wrists and fortunately I have never heard of the Bible method. When the pain first started the doctors told me I had carpal tunnel syndrom and wanted to operate on me. After three months of pain and not being able to properly use both my hands, I found a decent doctor who trained me how to deal with it.In a week I was much better. The pain kept coming and going for the first months. Through yoga my wrists are much stronger and there is no pain whatsoever. With ganglions you need to find the balance between getting the wrist stronger (gently) and not aggravating the condition at the same time. So in yogic terms that would mean to do downward dog for little while and go into childs pose for the rest of the time the class is in it..or do it on the wall progressively adding weight on your wrists as you go. You will adjust as you go..like we do in our Yogalife anyway!

  • Rick

    I have one in my left wrist. It’s been there for over 10 years. I’ve heard of the “book” method, but never tried it. It goes from being mildly annoying to pretty painful.

    I’m not sure that I like your teacher telling you that “Don’t worry. Yoga is hard; you’ll get there someday.”

    There is no “there” to get to in yoga. You are already where you need to be

  • I agree with Rick. We are all at our perfect place this very moment. Awesome article. I hope to see many more from you my friend.

  • Anna, I suffer from wrist pane as you describe. I have not been to a doctor yet. I find rolling my mat under my wrists helps. Found alternative yoga workout yesterday at my gym with instructor Jen, we practiced standing balance poses!thanks for the info.

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