The alignment often taught in plank requires the (fore)arms to be at 90 degrees with the palms. Furthermore, in chatturanga, the shoulders move over the wrists, further compressing the angle of the (fore)arm to palm to less than a right angle. This alignment may be too aggressive for some bodies who might feel strain or, even worse, pinching in the wrists when attempting it.
The bad news is that wrists lose flexibility over time, so you should be kind with yourself whenever returning to your mat. The good news is that you can regain some of that flexibility if you practice with awareness toward yourself and follow these easy tips that will protect the wrists, while still promoting opening in areas where there is space available.
1) Practice your planks, chatturangas and arm balances on a hard surface. Soft yoga mats or fluffy carpets are a no-no, because they let the heels of your wrists sink, decreasing the angle between your forearm and the palm.
2) Plant the entire palm on the mat, then extend the fingers and plant them on the mat.Bent fingers aggravate the wrist! Shift the weight evenly into all of the joints of the palm, moving the concentrated weight away from the heel of your palm.
3) Do rounds of “wrist lifts.” From table top, lift the heel of the palm then lower it. Repeat 15-20 times or until you feel the forearm muscles get tired. Keeping the muscle memory of the wrist lifts still fresh in your mind, try plank or downward facing dog and feel the lightness in your wrists.
4) Elevate the heel of your wrists by placing your palms on a folded hand towel, purposely increasing the angle between your forearms and the palm. The fingers and the finger mounds stay off the towel, sloping downward.
5) Shift the palms forward of the shoulders in plank to release the wrists. Note that this is not an option for crow or other arm balances because you don’t have your feet on the ground for balance.
6) Modification: bend your elbows during plank to help move the strain away from the wrist area. Elbows must bend backward (toward the toes) and not laterally.
7) Don’t be scared to bend your knees and lower them to the floor! This is another way to move the weight out of the wrists and into the legs.
8) Try planting your fists instead of palms on your mat. This modification takes the weight completely out of the wrists and helps strengthen it.
9) Use blocks under your palms. The elevation under your palms moves some of your weight into the legs, alleviating the stress on the wrists. You may either keep the palms flat on the block or fold the fingers down, bringing them parallel to the earth.
Your ideal alignment should be free of pain and it should follow a level of challenge that is appropriate for you. Happy planking!