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Beginner Yoga Poses You're Probably Doing Wrong (and How to Do Them Properly)

Fix Your Asana

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Some of the most beautiful things about yoga are that it's all about coming *as you are,* practicing in whatever way your body allows, and working out solely with the intention of making yourself feel good. (All right, well, not including chair pose.)

That being said, it's still 100 percent possible to do yoga poses incorrectly. (Just take 50 Cent as an example; he tried yoga for the first time and it was an epic fail.) And it's not just about getting a good Instagram snapshot—doing poses wrong can result in injuries, just like any other workout. A recent study done by the University of Sydney found that about 10 percent of people will develop pain or injury from yoga—comparable to the injury rate for all sports injuries in a similar population.

Start with these nine basic yoga poses: Be sure you're not making these super-common mistakes, and tweak them with quick fixes from Chelsea Scott, yoga instructor and studio manager at CorePower Yoga in New York City. With spot-on Asanas, watch as your yoga practice suddenly becomes that much more physically rewarding. (Then put them to good use in this beginner yoga flow.)

Upward Dog

How to do upward dog in yoga

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How to: Lie facedown on the floor, palms directly under shoulders, legs extended, and tops of feet flat on the floor. Press into palms to push chest off the floor until arms are straight. Engage legs and press tops of feet into the floor so knees hover off the floor. Gaze forward, crown of head reaching toward the ceiling.

Do:

  • Keep gaze forward and head neutral.
  • Engage core and quads.
  • Press shoulders down away from ears.

Don't:

  • Strain neck to look up.
  • Let legs and knees rest on the ground.
  • Sink into shoulders.

 

Chaturanga

How to do chaturanga in yoga

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How to: Start in a high plank position with palms directly under shoulders and core engaged. Keeping elbows in tight to sides, shift weight slightly forward and bend elbows to lower torso halfway to the floor. Pause when elbows form a 90-degree angle.

Do:

  • Keep elbows in tight next to ribs.
  • Shift weight forward so elbows are over wrists.
  • Tuck hips to keep body in a straight line.

Don't:

  • Bend elbows out to the side.
  • Let hips/butt lift into the air.

Half Lift

How to do a forward fold half lift in yoga

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How to: Start in a forward fold with feet flat on the floor hip-width apart and torso folded forward over legs. With legs straight or slightly bent, lift torso halfway until spine is straight and parallel with the floor.

Do:

  • Keep back flat and elongate neck.
  • Press hands onto legs.
  • Keep weight in heels.

Don't:

  • Arch back.
  • Let hands hang.
  • Let weight shift forward.

 

Downward Dog

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How to: Start in high plank position. Lift hips up and shift weight back toward heels to form an upside-down "V" shape. Press heels toward the floor and press into palms to reach tailbone toward the ceiling and press chest toward shins.

Do:

  • Relax heels toward the floor.
  • Straighten (but don't lock) knees.
  • Relax head between biceps.

Don't:

  • Perch on balls of feet with heels lifted.
  • Bend knees.
  • Look forward or strain neck.

 

Plank

How to do a plank in yoga

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How to: Start in push-up position with palms directly under shoulders and core, quads, and glutes engaged to form a straight line from shoulders to heels.

Do:

  • Engage core.
  • Keep shoulders over wrists.

Don't:

  • Relax core and arch back.
  • Drop hips.

 

Warrior II

How to do warrior II in yoga

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How to: Start in a wide lunge with the right foot forward and the left toes pointing directly to the left side. Right heel should bisect the middle of the left foot. Right knee is bent at about 45 degrees with the knee directly over the ankle, chest is facing the left, and arms are extended straight over each leg with palms facing down.

Do:

  • Keep arms parallel to the floor.
  • Keep front knee directly over front ankle.

Don't:

  • Lift front arm and drop back arm.
  • Let front knee shift backward.

 

Extended Side Angle

How to do extended side angle pose yoga

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How to: Start in warrior II on the right side. Shift torso forward and reach right fingertips toward the floor on the inside of the right foot. Extend left arm toward the ceiling, both palms facing to the left. Elongate neck and look up toward the ceiling to form a straight line from left toes to the crown of the head.

Do:

  • Keep torso straight and long.
  • Rotate chest open and reach tailbone back.
  • Gaze up toward the ceiling.
  • Reach through fingertips to engage arms.

Don't:

  • Round torso to reach toward the floor.
  • Gaze forward.
  • Relax arms.

 

Triangle

How to do triangle pose in yoga

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How to: Start in warrior II on the right side. Straighten right leg, then send hips straight backward and shift torso forward. Reach right fingertips toward the floor on the inside of the right shin and reach left arm straight up toward the ceiling, both palms facing to the left. Elongate neck and gaze up toward the ceiling.

Do:

  • Keep front knee straight, but not locked.
  • Reach through fingertips to engage arms.
  • Keep spine straight and long.
  • Rotate chest open and reach tailbone back.

Don't:

  • Bend front knee.
  • Round torso to reach toward the floor.
  • Relax arms.

 

Reverse Warrior

How to do reverse warrior pose in yoga

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How to: Start in warrior II on the right side. Holding this position with the lower body, extend torso up and lean back, resting left arm on the left shin or thigh and extending right arm toward the ceiling.

Do:

  • Keep front knee directly over front ankle.
  • Open chest to the left.
  • Drop shoulders away from ears.
  • Have knee over heel, not behind heel

Don't:

  • Straight front knee.
  • Face chest toward the front of the room.

 

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