I have had a few questions this week about sweaty hands sliding in Downward Dog, and tension in wrists and shoulders as a possible result. Here are a few ideas to explore in your Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog that I hope can help.
Question: My hands slide on my mat in Downward Dog and there is a lot of tension in my shoulders, what do I do?
If your hands are sliding on your mat, use a small sweat towel, yoga strap, or give your mat a good clean with vinegar and water (or my mat spray recipe ) to bring out the ‘sticky’ quality that can diminish when your mat get’s dirty and dusty. You might also consider a mat that provides more support like the Manduka Black Mat.
The contribution of the whole hand in Down Dog (and all arm balances) is paramount to healthy shoulder/wrist, and when your hands are unstable your shoulder will be unstable as a result and vice versa. A few key areas for a happy and healthy Down Dog are:
Use the whole hand in the pose; beware of ‘standing’ into your wrists. This will require a combination of bearing weight around the edges of the palm and through every finger, lifting the wrists so they don’t droop towards the mat, and importantly using your core to draw the hips back to take weight out of your hands/shoulders and create a long line from hips to wrists.
Hollow the belly, press back through the front of the thigh, and if your heels don’t meet the ground bend your knees to allow the pelvis some room to draw back.
Tuck the chin slightly towards the chest to lengthen the back of the neck – if the back of your neck is ‘scrunching’ that’s a good sign that you are bearing too much weight in your hands and/or misusing the shoulders.
Take care in the pose that your shoulder blades are well-connected to your rib cage. That means you will want to think about hugging your outer armpits to your inner armpits so that the scapula (shoulder blades) lie flat on your back without ‘winging’, scrunching to your shoulders, or retracting too much.
And finally, take your time to develop the strength and stability to perform Downward Facing Dog for longer periods. Pay attention to the messages of your body and when you can no longer safely bear your weight with all of the above considerations, come down into Child’s Pose and take a break – over time your strength, stability and endurance will improve…trust the process of Yoga!