Do This, Not That: 5 Poses Everyone Does Wrong & How To Fix Them (with pictures!)

Do This, Not That: 5 Poses Everyone Does Wrong & How To Fix Them (with pictures!)

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: some of the most commonly incorrect poses in a typical class.

1) Downward Facing Dog.
It’s easier to “dump” the weight forward because it takes the work out of the back and hamstrings, but when we lean too far forward, the wrists can strain, the spine compresses, and the rhythm of breath isn’t as fluid. Instead, be sure to elongate the hamstrings by pressing back through the heels, tilting the pelvis up, and press the floor away with the hands to elongate the spine. Also, let’s nip this in the bud once and for all: your heels do NOT have to touch the floor for this pose to be “correct.” There, I said it!
DoThis_NotThat_DownDog_s

2) Chatturanga Dandasana.
Ahh, much easier to pitch the hips up and dip the chest down, but it won’t do you any favors! Dipping the shoulders below the elbows can spell injury if we don’t correct it. It’s important to keep the chest moving slightly forward so that as you lower, the triceps can support you on the way down. Drawing the belly back and slightly elongating the tailbone towards the heels will keep the integrity of your posture as well as give you more control on the descent. Remember: you’re not doing a regular push-up. Keep those elbows in so they graze the ribs on the way down. And hey– if this is a little to much for now, keep that form, but drop the knees to the floor for extra support.
DoThis_NotThat_Chatt_s

3) Standing Forward Fold.
One of the most common mistakes I see in yoga classes is trying to fold from the waist. This will definitely compress the discs in the spine as well as limit your breath which will make you more prone to injury. Instead, fold from the crease in the hips and keep a slight bend in the knees if your hamstrings are highly restricted. It doesn’t matter how far down you can fold, but how intact you can keep the posture.
DoThis_NotThat_forwardfold_s

4) Upward Facing Dog.
The bottom picture shows pushing in to the floor and letting the shoulders hike up towards the ears, dropping the head backwards, and the torso is just along for the ride; the musculature through the back and abs aren’t really working. Instead, as you press the floor away, imagine bringing the sternum up towards the sky and keep the neck neutral. Kick in to the tops of the feet to engage the quads and keep the belly drawing back slightly. Think of this more as a chest opener than a backbend (it’s both, but there’s no need to exaggerate the bend backwards just for the sake of contortion). You want this pose to feel strong and empowered, not limp and heavy!
DoThis_NotThat_UpDog_s

5) Revolved Chair. 
I just love this pose. I do it often but even I have to catch myself with some tweaks almost every time! It makes the twist feel easier to let the pelvis fall out of symmetry and pop one knee in front of the other. But don’t fall in to temptation! Keep the hips level, keep the knees in the same line, and twist lightly through the center. Everyone will have different depths to which they can twist, so don’t take this as the single “correct” look. One thing that helps me get the most out of this is to drop my butt nice and low while maintaining that form.
DoThis_NotThat_RevolvedChair_s

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, and the exact shape you take in a pose will often look different from any “standard” picture out there. Keep safety a priority, and always be open to the possibilities of your own individual anatomy. 

Q: What poses do you find are often in need of adjustment?

 

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38 Comments

  1. Pigeon pose. I always get my hips corrected in class

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    • good one, alex! noted!

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  2. Erin, you rock so hard. I’m definitely guilty of the popped knee in revolved chair. Triangle is the big bad adjustment wolf for me… I’ve hurt my hamstrings too many times to count in that one and it’s scary to attempt to go slightly deep!! Don’t be a hero, Bad Yogis, ya look good just as you are 😉

    Reply
    • haha, why thank you 😉

      triangle is a great one. making a note to do this one next time!

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  3. I see a lot of mistakes with Warrior II- knee falls forward, back leg is not engaged, shoulders are tight. Lots of little adjustments in this one!

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  4. I’m new here and to yoga and I totally fall into the ‘Not That’ category for all of these… sigh… do you have a post for beginners? Really looking forward to being able to do chatturanga dandasana without collapsing and slamming into the floor… one day…

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    • Her 30 Day Challenge on Youtube is amazing for beginners if you have not done it yet. It helps to get all the positions correctly.

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      • Thank you Jeanni!

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    • Jeanni is right– beginner friendly 🙂 also, i made a note to do a beginner post too!

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  5. Pigeon but I need to find a way to have it so my legs are not going to sleep when I am in the position. I try to do it the way you show but I am also working on loosing weight so it makes pigeon a little complicated. I did find in another video that I can the four position in place of pigeon. Is that okay to do until I have lost enough weight to make pigeon comfortable?

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  6. Thank you for this! The visuals help a lot. How about some tips on moving into up dog from chaturanga during a vinyasa?

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    • I really need some help with this, too!!!

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      • @Tricia and Angelene, such a great idea! I can definitely do a post/video for that! 🙂

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  7. Vrksasana…. The good ol’ foot on the knee. -_-

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  8. Thanks Erin! Sometimes when I am watching your videos I can’t see the computer screen because I am following along, so this is helpful to actually see what correct form is supposed to look like 🙂

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  9. Thanks for this post, Erin! The visual for revolved chair is especially helpful. I could use help with pyramid and revolved triangle. I always feel like something is off in both of those poses. 🙂

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  10. Ditto the pigeon pose! I’ve been working on it but never quite sure if the hips are right! Thanks 🙂

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  11. Very informative and casual, I love it! I’d like to ask how I can improve on reaching my toes. Actually I find it hard to do any pose related to calves and legs. I’m not sure if it’s because I have long legs and shorter torso or because my muscles are too tight but it’s really hard for me. Sometimes I feel like I strain my back and neck a little in order for me to do it. I always bend my knees when I do the forward fold as I can’t reach the floor. Please help me. Thank you! 🙂

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  12. Thanks. Please do more poses

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    • And with props too!

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  13. Half moon pose & side angle stretch! I find both challenging to hold properly without falling out of the pose. 🙂

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  14. Hey, thanks Erin! I realised I wasn’t doing properly the upward facing dog!
    P.S. Love your 30 day chalenge, it’s amazing for us beginners 🙂

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  15. This is so helpful! I’d love a visual for how to do pigeon correctly.

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  16. chair pose and the warriors, pls 🙂 and thanks for these!

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  17. Lizard Pose would be great

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  18. I find warrior 1 and 2 difficult as my knees hyper extend too easily, always have to correct myself!

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  19. Some asanas I can understand what you’re trying to say, however the foreward bend you’re showing as incorrect are in fact correct for some of us based on their body structure. If there is compression in the hip joint they will never ever reach their hands to the floor or be able to touch their knees with their nose!

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  20. And will keep their back rounded! Alignment is only interesting when we incorporate our own physique and we’re all different. As long as you feel the stretch then you’re good. We should keep people safe and not instruct yoga in a one size fits all way! Nevertheless, you look great in pictures!

    Reply
  21. Love this. Super helpful

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  22. Fantastically helpful post (found via Pinterest, btw)! Thanks so much. I think I could probably have somebody take a picture of me in my poses to see what improvements I need to make. I mean, I can feel some of them, but I can’t always see myself. Then I can check my progress down the road. Thanks!

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  23. This is really helpful and good. But I do think that if your back is open and your upward dog is feeling good, you DO want to drop the head back. It helps the curve in the upper spine, and is a good and essential stretch to prepare you for urdhva dhanurasana, for drop backs and more advanced backbends where the head and neck want to be free and go back.

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  24. I trained through YogaWorks and there’s still a lot of debate about whether or not the knee should come forward in Utkatasana twist. Its not safer on the body to keep they knees in line, its a traditional cue that is being heavily debated. Most schools of thought lean toward letting the knee come forward just a bit to make space for the body’s natural movements. Great visuals, and spot on with all the other poses!

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  25. Unfortanely this is not a post for beginners. The correct form for the first exercise its only possible if you have long hamstrings, a normal person with short hamstrings can’t go to that position even if they want to.

    It’s the same for the third pose. The best way to do it its not for all, some people need a lot of work to get there. So this is not the correct form its the ideal form.

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  26. Thank you for posting this! It helps so much! I’ve been recording myself doing yoga, trying to see what I’ve been doing wrong and I definitely need to work on a few of these!

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  27. REALLY? If I was a beginner and trying to figure out poses in general, this would certainly tell me loud and clear that I CAN’T do yoga and shouldn’t try if I can’t do it “CORRECTLY”. “Correct” in yoga means MY practice and what feels best for me. You’re certainly flexible and this isn’t your first practice -congrats – you can do it all just right.

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  28. I respectfully disagree in regards to the chair twist. My thoughts are in line with Brittany’s. The pelvis contains the sacrum, which is an extension of the spine. If you are instructing a chair twist without letting the knee come forward, you are encouraging your students to lock their hips into their femurs, which will result in compression of the low back. In my opinion, the pose is meant to twist a long, not curved spine, engage the quadriceps, and stretch the outside of the hip/leg you are twisting towards. The best way to deepen this pose is to pull the navel in further, breathe into upper rib cage, and let the hips move with the spine so that you get to your deepest twist. Keep ringing out your organs, breathe in and out deeply, and don’t force yourself into anything that feels awful – it should feel good when you’ve found the pose!

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  29. Where do you get your awesome pants from!?

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    • Depends! Many of them come from Onzie and Liquido and then I pick up random pairs from TJ Maxx 🙂

      Reply

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