The Carpal Tunnel in Downward Dog

The intention of my teaching is to help people find their way into using the core of the body. Many people tend to initiate movement from the extremities’ rather than from the core.  An example of this is a tennis player with chronic shoulder problems. While hitting a tennis ball should be a whip like action that begins deep in the core of the trunk, very often the effort comes from the arm and shoulder inviting wear and tear that will eventually lead to injury.

As soon as I get a class of yoga students into down dog I start looking at hands and feet to see how they are pressing down into the earth. My first instruction is often, “ground the inside of your hands and feet.” Most often the weight situated on both hands on feet roll towards the outside. Feel free to do a down dog and see check out your own tendency.

The weight of the hand should be spread evenly through the whole hand. I often use the instruction; “roll weight from the outer wrist to the inner wrist.”  But, as often happens, things can get a little more complicated. If you look at the picture above or look at your own hand and draw the thumb towards the pinky you will see a groove that follows the carpal tunnel through the center of the wrist and palm.  And while it is important for the weight to be spread across the whole hand, this center groove at the base of the palm should be off the ground in downward dog.

Here’s how you can accomplish this little bit of magic:

  • Come on to your hands and knees with the palms flat on the floor. Feel the way the heel of the palm contacts the floor.
  • Look at your fingernails. If I had to guess the four fingernails other than the thumb are rolling out towards the pinky finger rather than pointing straight up.
  • Roll them to point straight up to the ceiling.
  • Now look at the thumb. It is probably rolling in the other direction away form the hand. Roll the thumbnail towards the other four fingers. The four fingernails should now be pointing straight up to the ceiling and the thumb is moving in that direction though it probably won’t make it all the way.

The combined effect of both of these actions should pop both the carpal tunnel off of the ground and the center of the palm as well.

Now, not to be the cranky yoga teacher but there are a lot of people with carpal tunnel syndrome that are told to do yoga to help with their condition. While yoga done correctly will definitely help carpal tunnel syndrome, it is also possible to make matters worse.

Body Flat to the Floor: Start Stretching
Sunday Morning Music: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds