Becoming Aware of the Details that can Cause Injury in Yoga

A yoga teacher friend once warned me about using “tented fingers” in yoga.  She said the likelihood of injury when this position is repeated is very high.  Apparently, she learned at a conference that a common yoga injury is in the hands due to “tenting.”  I had never really thought about injuring my hands this way in yoga.  Tenting my fingers was sort of an afterthought, just a small and not even necessary part of certain asanas (i.e., I could do something else with my hands if I wanted to and not affect the pose).  I’ve always focused more on injuries we are frequently warned of in yoga class:  neck injuries, shoulder strain, lower back tension, knee tears, hamstring pulls, overextension of hips…  After my friend made a big deal out of it, though, I began to notice. yoga tented fingers I started noticing that I do this a lot with my hands when practicing yoga, repeated throughout my sun salutations as one example.  When I come into lunge, I always tent my fingers, and having not been conscious of it before, I often probably pressed down into the mat with too much force (you can see the strain in the picture).  In my sun salutations now, at times I feel the pressure between my thumb and index finger causing a little pain when I tent my fingers without awareness.  I can see now that if I continue to do this, over the months and years I could easily hurt myself.  I’ve managed to soften the tent, with my fingertips lightly touching the ground but not pushing into it.  Or at times, I just flatten my hands on the floor or place them another safe way that makes sense in the pose.  I’m grateful to my friend for sharing this information with me, and I want to pass it along in case you haven’t thought about it. Small things like this really do make a difference, and part of yoga is noticing these things – and altering them if necessary, refining them, to their best end.  The ultimate goal is to become very attentive, through yoga, in daily life.  Beginning with not carelessly injuring yourself is a good start! Are there any small refinements you’ve made in your behavior (whether yoga practice or somewhere else) that have enhanced your life?  

10 Comments

  1. Thank you for this seemingly small and important tip Jen. You are a star. 🙂

    • Nomzi, your words fortify and inspire me! Thank you, love 🙂

  2. Jen, great post! What a great topic. What comes to mind is this . . . The photo you posted is a great example of incorrectly tented fingers or collapsed hand and fingers. So yeah if you are going to tent the fingers which I believe can be a good thing in certain poses such as lunge or in some balances like ardha chandrasana (hand to floor) – it is imperative that you do so with good form in that hand and fingers. And BTW I am no expert on tented fingers. But I often correct my students on this when I see the hand and fingers are collapsed which can not only harm the hand but I imagine it also puts unnecessary strain on the wrist as well. My thought would be to bring more awareness and do the tenting correctly rather than abandon the practice of tenting. Because if we can do this correctly we are actually building strength in the hands and fingers. To tent the fingers with a good outcome, I believe you do need to think of the union of opposites. You do need to press the finger tips strongly down into the floor but – that has to be balanced with a sense of lifting at the knuckles and hand. It’s as if you are absorbing the Earth’s energy up into the knuckles and hands to create strength and buoyancy so there is a strong sense of the hand lifting to the sky not sinking down. Does this make sense? I will try to find a good photo to show how it can be done properly.

    On the flip side – if the quest for proper hand tenting causes strain or injury – of course it should be abandoned and replaced with perhaps a flat hand or some other modification.

    Great topic – – one I have not seen addressed very often.

    • Thank you, Dee! Exactly what I meant to articulate — to bring more awareness to the practice of tenting, not to necessarily abandon it. I appreciate your clarifying that. I do “tent” my fingers every time I practice yoga — and I was grateful to the teacher who pointed this out to me because I noticed afterwards that sometimes I don’t have full awareness!

  3. yogaboca

    J0en, great post! What a great topic. What comes to mind is this . . . The photo you posted is a great example of incorrectly tented fingers or collapsed hand and fingers. So yeah if you are going to tent the fingers which I believe can be a good thing in certain poses such as lunge or in some balances like ardha chandrasana (hand to floor) – it is imperative that you do so with good form in that hand and fingers. And BTW I am no expert on tented fingers. But I often correct my students on this when I see the hand and fingers are collapsed which can not only harm the hand but I imagine it also puts unnecessary strain on the wrist as well. My thought would be to bring more awareness and do the tenting correctly rather than abandon the practice of tenting. Because if we can do this correctly we are actually building strength in the hands and fingers. To tent the fingers with a good outcome, I believe you need to think of the union of opposites. You do need to press the finger tips strongly down into the floor but – that has to be balanced with a sense of lifting at the knuckles and hand. It’s as if you are absorbing the Earth’s energy up into the knuckles and hands to create strength and buoyancy so there is a strong sense of the hand lifting to the sky not sinking down. Does this make sense? I will try to find a good photo to show how it can be done properly.

    On the flip side – if the quest for proper hand tenting causes strain or injury – of course it should be abandoned and replaced with perhaps a flat hand or some other modification.

    Great topic – – one I have not seen addressed very often.

  4. yogaboca

    I found this pic which looks like a pretty strongly tented hand.

    Arguably not so easy to achieve. Working with fingertip cobra might be helpful.

  5. Jen,

    I LOVE this post, honey, because it brings this issue to front-of-mind awareness for me and others. I do this and I caught myself doing the collapsed hand tent like your photo, which could explain why I’m having pain in my right wrist during my sun salutations. I tried doing sun salutations with a flat hand today and it’s much better. I will definitely work on doing a strong tent hand, like in the awesome photo above, and be more mindful of my tendency.

    I also lay in my joints during yoga. Because I am a very big girl, I’m sometimes challenged by holding myself in stricter form, but I’m aware of it and always, always adjusting, thanking my gorgeous healthy body, and giving myself encouragement. I ❤ yoga!

    THANK you so much and thank you to all of your friends who commented here as well. You have all helped me so much in this exploration. Love you, poodle! XOXO

    • Love YOU, Lizzy! I am so grateful for your reading and commenting! I always enjoy reading your blog, seeing your yoga/spiritual progress, and being immersed in your wisdom. I really love your attitude and philosophy. You always inspire me to challenge myself while also accepting myself completely (not always easy, but getting better at that…)! ❤

      • Jen! You are so, so kind, sister. You inspire me beyond description, sweetness; I always find a huge breath of sweet air and contentedness on your wonderful blog. It’s so nice to know that you’re feeling your way toward complete self-acceptance. It brings me such joy to know this, sweetheart. ❤

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