Are You Doing These Common Yoga Poses Correctly?

Are You Doing These Common Yoga Poses Correctly?

With so many different yoga poses out there, it's easy to get distracted by the challenging ones and overlook the benefit simple yoga poses offer. In other words, even the most basic yoga poses provide a wealth of benefits for beginners and even the most seasoned yogis if practiced correctly.

I'm going to offer a few suggestions to help you with some common yoga poses. Making these subtle adjustments in your practice will ensure that your yoga routine will be safe and of maximum benefit.

Keep in mind “right “ and “wrong” are not set terms in yoga. You have your whole life to practice this stuff, so let it be an exploration rooted in love and patience.


Mountain pose/Tadasana

Common Problem: Hyperextension

[caption id="attachment_8747" align="aligncenter" width="600"]In the first image, Jessica is hyperextending her legs, while in the second image she's doing a microbend, which is the proper way to do this pose. In the first image, Jessica is hyperextending her legs, while in the second image she's doing a microbend, which is the proper way to do this pose.[/caption]

Hyperextension is the movement or extension of joints, tendons, or muscles beyond the normal limit or range of motion which can cause injury. By hyperextending in your pose, you run the risk of creating serious problems. I have seen it and it's not pretty.

Learning not to hyperextend is one of the most difficult tasks to master. If you can, visualize a straight leg (you might want to use a full-length mirror to help) and then see what your leg looks like when it is hyperextended. The hyperextended leg looks like a parenthesis. Though it may feel straight, it is not. The easiest way to avoid hyperextension is to not to lock your knees, which can be challenging because when your teacher says, “Stand on your straight leg!” it is almost a silent command to do so. Instead, bring a micro bend into your knees.

But what does that really mean? Here's how it's done: Press the top of your calf muscle forward while pressing the head of your thigh bone back. This creates a micro bend in the knee, but in a way that allows muscular stability.


Forward fold/Uttanasana

Common Problem: Improper bending

[caption id="attachment_8748" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Follow Jessica's form in the second image to get the most from this pose. Follow Jessica's form in the second image to get the most from this pose.[/caption]

When you're forward folding into the pose, don’t try to touch your head to your shins. I know that you have heard this before—if not in yoga then in your high school gym class. But I'm going to shed some light on why it's so important to understand the correct posture for this pose.

I know it feels fancy and accomplished to touch your head to your shins, but you are avoiding the gift of the pose. Getting your hands to touch the floor is not the goal of the forward fold. Practicing a simple pose over and over again is actually the safest and most transformative way to work your body.

Let me say it again: Forward bending is not about rounding your spine to get your head to your shins! It is meant to lengthen your spine while your pelvis lifts and folds over your legs. As simple as it sounds, this isn’t the easiest pose to master. It is so challenging to do correctly that most teachers won’t push you into proper alignment.

To get the most out of this pose, keep your spine straight and fold your pelvis over your legs. If your hands don’t make it to the floor grab some blocks or the sides of your shins to support the pose. When your spine starts to round, and it will, stop and work the stretch.

I practiced yoga for years before I realized I wasn’t actually in a proper forward bend. Now my forward bend looks more like a table than a paperclip, but my hamstrings are finally truly starting to lengthen. So be gentle yet demanding with yourself and use this pose to cultivate patience, focus, and real flexibility.


Mountain pose with arms overhead/Urdhva Hastasana

Common Problem: Arms and shoulders misaligned

[caption id="attachment_8749" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Keep your shoulders aligned while reaching your arms overhead. Watch your shoulders to ensure they're in their sockets while reaching your arms overhead.[/caption]

In yoga we lift our arms over our heads all the time. This is great for circulation and lengthening your spine, but did you know that there is a good chance that your shoulder heads might be coming out of your shoulder socket if your alignment is off?

It is a challenge to align your arms in a way that keeps your shoulders in their sockets. But how does a yogi know if they are “out of line"? The simple way to tell is to lift your arms up and then look at your armpits. Are they flat or are they hollow? If your armpits don’t have a little cave in them, your shoulder heads are not in the right place.

Bring your arms down and externally rotate your upper arms (this opens your chest and your palms), then lift your arms up slowly, being sure to keep that little cave in your armpits. When you start to lose that alignment, stop raising your arms, find the hollowness again, and work with that edge until you can sustain your cave in full extension. If this feels challenging, then you’re on the right track! It’s supposed to challenge and this means you are doing it right.

This kind of work is subtle but powerful, so be faithful to your practice. Keep it going, your practice is about to go to the next level!


This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of exercise, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

Jessica James has been practicing yoga seriously for 12 years, and for the last 6 years she has developed yoga sets that sculpt the body and clear the mind as a teacher. During her second pregnancy, Jessica shared her own experience with a unique fitness based prenatal yoga program. She has completed 3 yoga alliance certified teacher training courses and currently lives in Malibu, CA with her family.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.