Adjustments You Can Make to Yoga Poses (Without Cheating)

Yoga is a personal experience, and sometimes you will need to make adjustments to yoga poses to suit your body. Here are some ideas.

Is adjusting yoga poses to suit your body the same as cheating?

Not at all! The thing about yoga is that everybody will have a different experience in their practice, because everybody’s bodies work differently and are capable of doing different things. Some people, for example have less flexibility in their hamstrings, which makes certain yoga poses like the downward facing dog, difficult to ‘perfect’. But yoga is not about ‘perfecting’ postures in a visual sense. It is meant to be about doing what feels right for you, and listening to your own body. You should always practice yoga at your own pace, because it is your own personal journey.

You should also bear in mind that it is not just about looking the same as everyone else in a particular pose; you also have to make sure that you are working the right part of your body. You can make small adjustments to put less unnecessary strain on other parts of your body, which are preventing you from receiving the true benefits of the pose.

Here are some suggestions for adjustments you can make to some popular yoga poses, but you should always do what feels right for you, and get expert advice from your personal yoga instructor.

Don’t be afraid to bend your knees

Woman Performing Downward Dog Yoga Pose

In postures such as the downward facing dog, the focus should be on grounding, and then lengthening and straightening your back by pushing your sit bones high towards the sky before you focus on straining your hamstrings by straightening your legs. If you focus on straightening your legs first then you are more likely to bend your back which defeats the point of the pose. So don’t be afraid to keep the legs bent slightly as you get better at this yoga posture.

Other poses you may want to think about allowing a slight, or even an initial deep bend in your knees, are those that require you to feel the crease in your hip joint as you bend over with a straight back. Never compromise the core reason for the pose for aesthetic value – yoga is not bout vanity, it is about flow and finding the correct body alignment. Find out from your instructors what the poses are meant to achieve, and speak out if you don’t feel you are achieving it.

Use blocks to help with alignment and support

Some of us are not as flexible as others, and we may need to use blocks to help support parts of our bodies in certain poses. You don’t need to feel that you are inadequate though; this is what the blocks are there for.

So for example, when you are sitting cross-legged in the lotus position, if you find that your knees are risen higher than your hips you may need to sit higher so that your knees can rest lower which will in turn help your hips to open up more, releasing tension so that you can focus on the releasing effect of your deep breathing and meditation. The blocks can be used until you feel that your flexibility improves.

Use your mat for padding

Often people find that certain poses put too much pressure on the knees or elbows, especially if your mat is not very well padded and your core and leg muscles are not well developed enough yet to help support your whole body. You can fold the edge of your mat over to provide extra cushioning for your knees though, which will help you to shift your focus and energy back to your breathing and balance, by taking away the distraction of discomfort.

Adjustments for balance

In the tree pose some people feel that they are going to topple over when they bring their foot too high, and often people find it difficult to maintain the foot position as it can slip down to where the knee is, which is bad. To avoid applying unwanted pressure on the inside of the knee, you can rest your foot much lower on the inside of your shin instead, and still benefit from this hip-opening and balancing pose.

Releasing your back in resting poses

young woman doing yoga pose on the beach

If you need to release your back, sometimes lying down flat does not help, but id you lie on your back but bring your knees up you will be able to feel your spine straighten out on the mat. Another way of aligning your spine in a resting pose is to role your mat up into a cylinder and then place it underneath you along the length of your spine to help your spine re-align. This isn’t comfortable for everyone, so just do what feels right for you.

Share the adjustments you have learnt in your yoga classes

Have you discovered any yoga pose adjustments that you find particularly helpful in your yoga practice? Describe them in the comments section below, along with what they do for you personally. You never know who else may have a similar issue and who may benefit from your discovery.

About the author

Zara M.

I love to write, draw, take photographs, dance tango, write in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook and ogle other people’s Filofaxes. Oh – and I like LOTS of sugar in my tea! I want to inspire you, and show you the world through my eyes.

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