In most cases, there’s plenty to do when it comes to fine tuning our yoga practice. We could lift a little more here, engage a bit more over there, and bring more awareness to our breath while we do all of it. But sometimes it’s easier to just identify what looks “off” and find out how we can correct it quickly. Taking things one step at a time with the intention of eventually painting a full picture is much more satisfying than just trying to fix everything all at once. The “fix-it-all-now” strategy is demoralizing and you rarely feel the same sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere! How about here: two more of the most commonly incorrect yoga poses.
When I first started doing yoga, I really thought updog and cobra were interchangeable. If I’m honest, as a beginner, they really felt totally the same! Turns out, they’re not, haha 😉 In Cobra, you want to keep the elbows slightly bent. Kick firmly in to the tops of the feet, engage the quads, and gently press the pelvis down in to your mat. The shoulders should roll back and down away from the ears, and you can look in any direction that feels natural; so you shouldn’t feel any strain in the neck.
What happens most often is just pushing the upper body up and jamming the lower back. Not good! You’ll hurt your back, your neck, and any benefit is gone. Pay attention to your form and you’ll be golden.
2) Warrior II.
You’re probably thinking, “How the heck could I be screwing this up?! It’s such a basic pose!” Just because you do something often in a yoga class doesn’t make it “basic”! Warrior II is a strong pose and we get the most out of it when we align ourselves properly. That said, you want the pelvis to be square, meaning the hip bones both face forward, and the back hip isn’t popping up. Reach evenly down both arms and keep them around shoulder height, not letting them fly up overhead. You want to keep the neck relaxed and that won’t do you any favors 🙂
Keep the front knee bent deeply so the knee tracks over the toes. The back leg should be straight with the foot parallel (or close to it) to the edge of your mat. Remember to breathe and press evenly in to both feet.
A quick important note: Alignment is extremely important for keeping your practice safe and sustainable, and many cues hold true for any body. But remember that because every body is different, the exact shape you take in a pose will often look different from any “standard” picture out there. These “do this” pictures are what I would consider “ideal” alignment (meaning I have no injuries or restrictions that get in my way today) but absolutely NOT the ONLY correct variations. Keep safety a priority, and always be open to the possibilities of your own individual anatomy.