There are several questions that yoga teachers are asked quite often by both students and practitioners, and one of the top questions is; Why do my hands slip in downward dog?
A common belief is that your hands slip in downward facing dog is because your hands get sweaty.
Even though that is a frequent reason, there are other considerations to delve into that not only will help reduce how much your hands slip in downward dog, but may increase your proprioception and awareness, potentially enhancing your practice.
In this article, we will explore:
- The Basics of Downward Dog
- Why Do My Hands Slip In Downward Dog? – 4 Reasons
- 6 Solutions to Stop Your Hands from Slipping in Downward Dog
Let’s get started.
The Basics of Downward Dog
Downward Facing Dog, (Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit) is a foundational hatha yoga posture that is often categorized as an inversion as well as an arm-supported posture.
As you explore this shape, consider building it from the ground up, hence the importance of the hands and feet to keep you stable in the posture, with the invitation to find both Sthira and Sukha within the shape; balance between effort and ease.
Begin by focusing on your hand placement: your fingers are spread wide, tips and knuckles connected to the ground and your hands are firmly planted on the earth (hasta bandha), about shoulders’ distance apart.
Your arms are strong and engaged, creating a diagonal line between your hands, your elbows, and your shoulders, which soften away from your ears, allowing your shoulder blades to gently roll down and back, avoiding collapsing in the cervical spine and shoulders.
As you lift your knees off the ground, send your hips up and back, as your spine lengthens from your shoulders to your hips.
When it comes to the feet, we are looking at a similar set up as the hands; toes spread wide and are grounded, place your feet about hips distance apart, as you align your heels directly behind your toes.
Whether your heels are on the ground or not is irrelevant; whether your legs are straight or your knees are bent, is up to you and the amount of sensation/intensity you are searching for at the moment.
Why do my hands slip in downward dog? 4 reasons
Even though there are many possible causes why your hands slip in downward dog, here are four of the most common ones so you can take some time to observe what the causes may be for you, making it a bit easier to find a path toward a solution:
Many people that choose to practice yoga do so with the intention to move and connect to their body, and oftentimes this involves creating a little bit of heat and even sweat.
Your nervous system automatically triggers your sweat glands when your body temperature rises, so when practicing yoga and creating internal heat, it is possible that the palms of your hands get damp, hence causing them to slip.
Different people tend to perspire through various parts of their body, but the hands and the feet are certainly common parts of the body to dampen up first.
When practicing in a warm or heated room, or during highly energetic practices, the sweatiness of hands and feet can increase even more, making it hard to remain in your downward facing dog position as your hands slip and slide.
2. Practice Surface
Another important factor to consider if you feel like your hands slip in downward dog is the type of surface that you are practicing on.
Even though it is not necessary, many practitioners of yoga utilize a mat, and the type of mat that you choose will vastly enhance – or sometimes hinder – your physical yoga practice.
There are many styles of mat in the market, made with different materials and for a variety of purposes. We encourage you to take some time researching until you find a good fit for your practice and your needs.
But more on that a bit later in the article.
Even though Downward Facing Dog is a fairly common yoga asana practiced in many styles of yoga, it is not the most accessible or easy posture.
Oftentimes, when we are practicing a shape as we “think we should” we may omit variations and modifications that would easily gives us better access to the asana.
In Downward dog, the placement of the hands relates directly to the strength and engagement of the arm muscles, as well as the extension of the spine, and the strength and flexibility in your lumbar spine, glutes, and hamstrings, as discussed before.
When everything is in alignment, the weight is distributed more evenly through the body, hence placing less pressure on the wrists and hands.
4. Hand grip – Hasta Bandha
The way in which you place your hands on the ground, no matter what mat or surface is underneath them, will greatly impact the amount of grip you can obtain while in downward facing dog as well as many other yoga postures that require hand and wrist strength and stability.
When the grip is inadequate, not only do our hands slip in downward dog, but we’re also putting pressure on the wrists, often creating discomfort or even pain.
Hasta Bandha, the hand lock, is how we begin to work toward relieving wrist pain, as well as strengthening the hands and the wrists, and creating a hand grip that will stop your hands from slipping in downward dog.
6 Solutions to Stop your hands from slipping
By now, you may have started to identify why your hands slip in downward dog so here are a few solutions for some of the causes discussed above:
1. Use A Towel
If you practice warm or hot yoga, or have a tendency to sweat a lot, one of the most common solutions is placing a yoga towel on top of your mat in order to create a surface that is grippier.
For many people, lightly spraying the towel with water before practicing, reduces their hands from slipping in downward dog even more.
2. Wash Your Hands
As simple as this may seem, oftentimes we put creams, oils, and lotions on our hands, as well as added oils that our body naturally secretes throughout the day.
Washing your hands with a neutral, non-oily soap and drying them well before getting on your mat can reduce some of the slipping of your hands in downward facing dog.
3. Wear Non-Slip Gloves
Another quick, inexpensive solution is purchasing especially designed yoga gloves (and socks).
They are great to increase hand grip in all styles, but they are particularly practical for sweat-inducing styles like hot yoga.
These gloves are often fingerless and made of breathable material, yet the palms contain polyester blend dots that stick to your mat and drastically reduce how much your hands slip in downward dog.
4. Choose The Right Type Of Mat
As we mentioned earlier, the type of mat that you use can also have a positive or negative impact on how much your hands slip in downward dog and other shapes, as well as impact your entire practice.
Among the most common materials found in yoga mats are PVC (vinyl), jute, cotton, and organic cork.
Sometimes, even if a yoga mat is labeled as non-slip, you may find your hands still slip when you practice, but in general, cork mats seem to be the less slippery ones due to their porosity, rubber texture, and almost mushy texture, but different types and materials work for different people.
5. Exercise to strengthen hands & wrists; improving hasta bandha.
One of the most underrated ways to stop your hands from slipping – probably because it’s the one that requires most effort on our part and, well, we’re only human… – is developing a better hand grip by strengthening your wrists and learning to engage your hasta bandha, the hand lock.
Hasta Bandha can substantially increase your grip on any surface, and here is how to practice it:
- Come to your table top position, aligning your hands under your shoulders.
- Spread your fingers wide creating a balanced grip between all five fingers of each hand.
- Ground the tips of your fingers firmly as well as your knuckles and notice if your index finger knuckle has a tendency to lift up!
- Ground through the thumb mound as much as you do through the outer edge of your palms; distributing the weight evenly.
- Notice if your weight shifts toward your wrists; keep your fingers engaged.
- Allow the center of your palm to remain hollow.
- From there, come into your adho mukha svanasana, keeping hasta bandha engaged throughout.
If wrist pain persists, consider these exercises:
- Wrist circle eights
- Wrist flexion and extension
- Wrist external and internal rotation
If none of these seem to work for you, keep in mind that to achieve any change or progress, a consistent practice is necessary.
However, if your wrists continue to hurt, or your hands slip in downward dog after exploring some of these options, and giving yourself a bit of practice and trial and error, consider that perhaps taking puppy pose or staying in table top may be better options for your practice at this time.
Now we’ve answered the question: why do my hands slip in downward dog!
Needless to say, you can continue to explore different solutions, methods and techniques, and chat with your trusted yoga teacher so that they can potentially help your personal situation.
For more deep dives into the intricacies an Asana, why not check out this article: