My left wrist has been sore, on and off, for about two weeks. First, after May's arm-balance-and-vinyasa-extravaganza (morning Primary series followed by afternoon Rocket, for four weeks), there was some soft tissue tenderness around the pisiform bone and when I finally got done with that, I had full-on practices for a while until, about two weeks ago, I felt a tendon (I think it's a tendon) overstretch during a Baddha Padmasana , so then there was soreness over between the forearm bones and the scaphoid (see site above).
That soreness went away with attention to vinyasa and weight-bearing and I was able, for a while, to do a whole Primary worth of vinyasa without wrist soreness, but then in a class I was teaching, I modeled vinyasa and chaturanga and the lower-down to chaturanga (the low push-up position which appears in all vinyasa) and then someone got me on a tangent about how to do this arm balance and so enthusiasm ruled over ahimsa (non-wounding) and now I've got a big messed-up wrist. I can jump back from standing forward bend to chaturanga, but can't hold the weight, so I go right down in a heap.
Thus, the title question: how do you do an Ashtanga Vinyasa practice without your hands? This means no vinyasa, no standard sun salutations, perhaps no taking the big toe in forward bends, triangle pose, balance poses, and so forth.
Yesterday afternoon I used "fake vinyasa," by which I mean the freakish 87 degree heat we're having right now, and did a sun-salutationless practice of poses from the Primary series, cutting the hand-to-big-toe balances and modifying any standing pose which called for a hand flat on the floor. Outer heat used as inner heat. It worked; mostly the practice was about attention and modification; no poses were as deep as they so-called "usually" are (what is one's "usual" practice, anyway?), but I found that I was still able to touch 3-4 fingers in binding 7 of the 8 Marichyasana poses, even with no formal warm-up. That was pretty cool. The Kurmasanas however were totally out of the question. For vinyasa I did 5 breaths of Navasana/the boat between poses, and then did a pack of Bridge Pose backbends at the end.
This morning, cooler, was more challenging. Still no weight on the hands allowed. This practice was more exploratory, a very "scratch the itch" practice. Often the tightest part of my body is here on the right side, particularly the psoas, tensor fasciae latae and perhaps rectus femoris. I went into this practice craving twists and backbends, but gentle ones at first, so I did the world's gentlest incarnations of Dhanurasana and Ustrasana , coupled with twists in a low-lunge position, all in the name of getting into the hip, so that I could perhaps sit comfortably and do some pranayama. Eventually I found that a long stay in Parsva Dhanurasana (that's just the same pose tipped over onto the side, in this case the right side) began to stretch into just the fibers that I wanted.
Some description of this is needed: Primary series is called "yoga chikitsa," which means yoga therapy, and is widely understood to be a sort of "body cleansing," a preparation for more subtle, energetic poses and series. Fittingly, Intermediate series is called "nadi shodana," nerve cleansing. There are poses throughout Primary, however, which can have a downright energetic effect. Backbends are usually the candidate here, however Supta Kurmasana is probably the go-to pose where energetics are most obviously "louder" than physical "stretch".
This isn't unique to yoga and I don't have a specific vocabulary for it. It's not the high that runners, bikers and so on talk about and it's not quite the "in the zone" that you'll hear sprinters or rock climbers describe. It's the point at which a physical movement becomes a sort of FLAME of energy; it's when the red of muscles turns into the white of nerve electricity; it's the prana body. It's like experiencing your body as that chakra diagram, with all of the colors and patterns, not as muscle/bone "anatomy." You get a peek at it the first time you float a jump in a vinyasa class, or when you feel your lower back flare into energy highways in Supta Kurmasana or when you feel that rocketship lightning in a backbend, arcing through your body from hands to feet.
Anyway: I sometimes feel an energy block, exactly in the hip flexors of the right side, and I can actually visualize it, in colors and everything. The long stay in Parsva Dhanurasana got it, and when one of those suckers opens, it's HAPPY TIME--there are endorphins and a sort of "floppy" effect sets in, and there are either or both emotional and biochemical "messages" to listen to. It's like the aftereffect of a good cry or, to be honest, a good shag. Yes, he said shag.
Come on, you KNOW Austin Powers does yoga.