Speaking of love, we received a wonderful review from Lynne at Om Circle Yoga. Lynne is a former “desk/airport-jockey software programmer/consultant turned yoga teacher”. Her yoga philosophy: Staying active in body, mind and spirit is my path to health and youthfulness. Yoga is the only activity I have found to simultaneously engage and challenge all three of these areas.
This past summer, I noticed thumb pain during my yoga practice and while gardening (my other job). Even with good alignment, poses like up-dog and wheel were starting to get painful. Being a type-A leaning human, my first instinct was to maintain status quo and see if it cleared up on its own. Being a yoga teacher, I knew better than to ignore it. It is one thing to have discomfort in your practice and another thing entirely to have actual pain. Discomfort is a warning to proceed mindfully while pain is a bright red stop sign.
Optimism in hand, I went to see an orthopedic hand specialist. I was sure he would tell me about a minor inflammation that would resolve with rest. Boy was I wrong! At 44, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my thumbs…early onset, no direct cause, perhaps hereditary. Gasp! Those words were swirling in my head when he said: “Your days of doing this (gesturing a plank pose) are over.” The swirling thoughts were drowned out by my stubborn inner child, who immediately threw a psychic temper tantrum. My inner child is a force to be reckoned with. She possesses all the tenaciousness and iron will of a 2 year old and does not like to be told what to do (my boyfriend can attest to this).
I needed a work-around and was sent to an occupational therapist. She molded a plastic hand splint designed to take pressure off the thumb joint during weight bearing activity. While it provided relief, it chafed and cracked in half after 2 weeks. After that, I experimented with a few home-grown solutions – building on what I had learned from the specialists. One attempt involved a non-skid yoga glove stuffed with a yoga block wedge. These approximated the plastic splint, but were clumsy.
After an intensive internet search, I found Wrist Assured™ Gloves from Joint Protection Products. They have two styles. This review is of the WAGS Pro model. While designed to support wrists, these hand and wrist support gloves have a thick stable pad that elevates the palm and takes pressure off the metacarpophalangeal joints (where the fingers meet the palm). This elevation is just enough to alleviate the bone-on-bone joint ‘crunching’ characteristic of arthritis. At the same time, they do not hinder my yoga.
There was a short adjustment period for me. I practice Ashtanga yoga, where props are used sparingly. Emotionally, wearing gloves felt a little odd and I was a bit self-conscious. Physically, having the heel of my hand higher that the fingers made it feel like I was projecting forward in arm balances. I adapted by putting more emphasis on pressing fingertips into the earth (as one might do in handstand). This small modification restored that balance and stopped my thumb and wrist pain in yoga.
More importantly, the real balance that I found was in being able to continue practicing regularly and pain-free in a manner aligned with my doctor’s advice.