Recently, I approached a student of mine whom I noticed had placed a blanket underneath her mat while setting up for class. When I inquired about it, she said it was to pad her bony vertebrae and knees–she couldn’t lay down or kneel without it without her bones digging into the hard floor. I asked her if she had noticed any wrist pain since she began using this technique, and (as I expected) she said she had. I have spoken with many students who do this, or some variation: they use two, even three mats instead of one, thinking that it does their joints a favor. The truth is, however, using more than one mat has an adverse affect on some of the most used joints in yoga: the wrists.
Although it may sound luxurious to stretch on soft surfaces, doing so makes it difficulty to evenly distribute your weight, and puts added strain on certain pressure points. Using a blanket to pad the knees during lunges, or the coccyx during savasana is A-OK; building up padding beneath the hands and wrists is not so good. Think about doing a down dog on your bed (or try it!). With such a forgiving surface, not only is it hard to stay balanced, you’ll notice your fingers and palms rest much higher than the wrist. When this happens, your wrist bears the brunt of your body weight and tires much more quickly. The result is a nagging wrist pain that often makes you want to pad your hands more–don’t do it! Try instead going down to one mat, or even the hardwood floor. Feel free to keep a blanket nearby, should you need it for your knees or back–or bite the bullet and invest in a denser mat that will keep your bones off the hard floor. Whatever you do, keep those hands on a firm surface and keep a spreading those fingers wide!