5 Common yoga mistakes

Whether you’re just a beginner or seasoned pro, fine-tuning your yoga practice can be a serious struggle! Ask any yoga guru out there and they’ll tell you that even the tiniest of adjustments can make a world of difference when it comes to perfecting your poses.

Shoulders aligned with wrists, knees aligned with hips, chin towards chest, chest towards thighs… so many things to remember! It can be overwhelming trying to master all of the intricacies that go along with each and every pose. Thankfully, that’s what instructors are here for!

Often I notice that students, both new and old, get a little nervous or self-conscious when I or another instructor try to correct their pose. And I totally get it, I’ve been there too! I used to get embarrassed when my yoga teacher would assist me during class, and you’d better bet I avoided eye contact at all costs when I saw he or she headed in my direction. I mean, let’s be honest, no one wants to be singled out in class for doing something wrong.

But what I’ve come to learn during my own practice, and what I try to teach my students now, is that it’s impossible to learn, grow and improve without a little help. From one yogi to another, here’s some advice: Never fear correction, never be embarrassed to receive help, never turn down help and always embrace challenges. So the next time you spot your yoga instructor heading in your direction, don’t hide in child’s pose, stand proud in that not-quite-so-perfect down dog of yours and welcome the opportunity to not only better your practice, but better yourself.

And on that note, here are some tips on how to correct some of the most common yoga mistakes.

1. Down dog

Bad dog

Down dog: Wrong

Rounding the back, taking too short of a stance between your hands and feet, remaining on the tippy-toes and not reaching the back heels toward the floor.

Tame that dog

Down dog: Right

Make sure you have a good distance between your hands and feet. Your ankles and heels want to be reaching as close to the ground as you can get them, with the ultimate objective to get those feet flat on the ground. It is also extremely important to push your chest in toward the tops of your thighs while keeping your gaze toward your legs as well. This is what creates the nice flat back, as opposed to the rounded back in the first photo.

2. Plank pose

Wrong way

Plank pose: Wrong

Once again, rounding the spine too much in this pose defeats the objective, as does lowering the hips too far to the ground and creating an arch in the spine.

Right way

Plank pose: Right

The secret to plank pose is engaging your core! Keeping those abs nice and tight, try to create as straight a line as possible with your body by lowering those hips so that they are even with your back and spine. Also make sure that your wrists are directly in line under your shoulders and you’re on top of your toes, with your heels lifted toward the sky. Your gaze should be a little in front of your fingertips so that your head is in line with the rest of your body.

3. Cobra

Fear it

Cobra: Wrong

Shoulders are lifted toward the ears, creating tension in the neck and spine, and toes are curled under, as opposed to flat on the floor.

Fix it

Cobra: Right

Press the tops of the feet firmly into the ground and really lengthen the legs out behind you. Planting your palms into the ground, one to two inches behind your chest bones, lift your chin and chest off the ground, keeping a slight bend in the elbows so you’re not hyperextended, and pressing the shoulders toward the floor, creating more space between your head and body. Keep your gaze lifted toward the sky.

4. Warrior 2

Weak warrior

Warrior 2: Wrong

Not enough space between legs in the stance and not enough bend in the front knee to get the most benefits out of this pose. Shoulders are also lifted toward the ears, creating tension in the neck.

Strong warrior

Warrior 2: Right

Standing with a good distance between your front and back leg, create a deep bend in your front knee, while still pushing through the back foot so that it remains flat on the floor. Make sure that your ankle is in line with your knee so that it is creating a straight line, as opposed to being too far in front of or behind your ankle. Keeping the bend in your front knee, extend your arms in opposite directions, following your legs. Lower your shoulders and press through those fingertips, keeping your gaze over your front hand and creating a strong, powerful stance.

5. Tree pose

Broken branches

Wrong tree

Resting your foot on your kneecap is the No. 1 no-no of tree pose. Avoid breaking that branch by placing your foot above or below that knee.

Solid tree trunk

Tree pose: Right

Pressing into your supporting leg, begin by bringing your opposite knee into your chest. Once you have your balance, allow your knee to turn out to the side and rest the bottom of your foot above your knee on the inside of your upper thigh or below your knee on the inside of your calf. Continuing a steady breath to help focus your mind and body, bring your hands to a prayer position at your heart, or experiment a little by raising them toward the sky, creating branches with your arms.

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