As a yoga teacher in an international tourist destination, the majority of our students that come to open classes are one-time drop-ins. Some are trying yoga for the first time, some have been doing it for years. But no matter the mix of students in my classes, I still see a slew of the same misalignments. And understandably so: It can be confusing to know where, exactly, to put our limbs and bodies to achieve this pose or that, while dealing with the cranks and pains of postures. Yet while misalignment is common, and easy to fix, it is also important to fix: An understanding of the physical postural alignment allows you to feel more ease and freedom in your yoga practice, which, in turn, allows you to go deeper into the energetics and spirituality of your practice.
So, without further ado, here are some of the most common alignment mistakes that we teachers observe in class—along with tips on you can re-align your body.
1. Hand placement (…for downward dog, plank or any other weight-baring poses).
Misalignment: Hands not engaged, and weight unevenly spread, which can lead to wrist and arm injury.
Realignment: Create a stable base of support by gripping through your fingertips. Press your entire palm—especially your thumb and forefinger—into the mat as you spread your fingers wide.
2. Shoulders (…in warrior 1 and 2, chair pose and any other pose where arms are at shoulder height or above).
Misalignment: Shoulders lift along with the arms, crunching up close to the ears (creating neck and shoulder tension).
Realignment: Soften shoulders away from ears. Widen your arms away from each other when arms are high to create more space in shoulders. Roll shoulders back and down when entering arm up postures.
Misalignment: Lower body still grounded as your lift torso off mat, shoulders lift and you feel a crunch in your lower back.
Realignment: Press through the hands and arms to grow out of the shoulders. Top of the feet stay planted on the ground, with the hips and thighs lifted off the mat.
4. Seated pose with rounded back (…for any seated position like a forward fold or twist).
Misalignment: The lower back is rounded, pulling the body back and making you unable to keep the spine straight. The pelvis here is tilting forward.
Realignment: Sit yourself up on a block or the edge of a bolster in order to help adjust and tilt the pelvis forward to take the round out of the lower back.
5. Hyper extension in back (…for any standing or sitting pose).
Misalignment: The lower ribs stick out and belly rounds forward as the lower back is over-arching.
Realignment: Pull the lower ribs in and suck the belly button in. Activate through the crown of the head to active the deep inner core line to create integrity from the inside.
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