You probably think you got yoga down pat, so you proudly post photos on Facebook and Instagram of yourself clad in sports bras and skin-tight pants doing various contortions. From physical fitness to stress relief to better sex and mental clarity – these are just some of the benefits to be had from yoga, provided you are doing it properly. But how do you know you’re not straining muscles instead of toning them and causing veteran yoga practitioners to knit their brows in disapproval because you’re actually doing it all wrong?
Here are some of the most common blunders that neophyte yogis are guilty of doing while busting those ancient moves. Fix these mistakes to get the most out of your precious yoga moments. Your body (and social media followers!) will thank you for it.
Otherwise called the Corpse pose, Savasana is the final resting pose after the asanas. It is done by lying on one’s back. When done properly, Savasana drains fatigue out of the body and induces calmness. However, this apparently easy pose is actually one of the hardest according to the late B.K.S. Iyengar who was considered as one of the most foremost yoga teachers in the world. Iyengar said that quieting the mind is much more difficult than keeping the body still. This is because one may find himself unable to relax and spend the time fidgeting and worrying about it which defeats the purpose of the Savasana. Yoga teachers advise that putting a bolster or blanket under the knees may help remedy this.
This standing balance pose strengthens the abdomen, ankles and calves. It provides relief for sciatica or pain affecting the leg, back and hip. The Tree pose also promotes improved focus, a sense of balance and coordination. Yogis say that the more you practise the Tree, the more you are able to meet daily life’s challenges with grace and clarity. The following are some mistakes that may prevent you from getting the most out of this pose: hunching your shoulders, leaning back or forward and resting your foot on the kneecap instead of on the inner thigh or above the knee.
Downward facing Dog
This is another seemingly easy pose that many people get wrong. There are several ways you can mess up this pose: not keeping your back flat, positioning your hands too close to the feet, sticking your head up, crunching your neck, or pinning your ears against your shoulders. Experienced yogis say that the right way to do this pose is to start from the plank position with your hands shoulder-width and feet hip-width apart. In a fluid motion, press your hands firmly against the floor and move your hips upward, your body making an inverted “V” position. The neck and back should be kept straight, the head down and the feet flat on the floor. You may also lift your heels or bend your knees initially but make it your goal to eventually get your feet flat on the ground.
This powerful pose stretches and stabilises the chest and abdomen, as well as lengthens the lower back. The Upward-facing dog is an intermediate to advanced pose, so care must be exercised during the execution to prevent injury. Students are warned against attempting this pose if their back is not fully ready for it. Veteran yoga practitioners can tell if one is not doing the upward-facing dog pose properly. Usually, the shoulders are very high and near the ears, or the knees and legs are touching the ground. To do this pose, start from the plank position then proceed to the Baby Cobra pose. Keep the feet hip-width apart and the arms shoulder length apart. Exhale, then lower the body and tilt it forward. Your hands and the top part of your feet should be the only body parts touching the floor.
When you do this pose, it’s important that you avoid placing all your weight on the inner knee and then forcefully twisting your head toward the ceiling like some people do. These erroneous habits strain the knee and the cervical spine. The proper way to do the triangle pose is to start with your hands at your sides and your feet about 3.5 to 4 feet wide apart. Shift your weight onto the left foot with the inner foot pressed firmly on the floor. Raise your arms on either side parallel to the floor with your palms facing the ground. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, bend your body to the right and grasp your right ankle with your right hand while stretching your left arm towards the ceiling.