Yoga is all about adaptation. If you’re having trouble getting into poses, here are a few tricks you can use to modify yoga poses to fit your comfort level.
If you are new to yoga, there is a high chance that even some of the most “basic” yoga poses can be hard or just down right confusing. Between proper alignment, breath, stretching out tight muscles, and building strength, there is a lot to focus on!
We’ve already covered 10 yoga modifications to help you transition into a full pose.
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Here, we will add to that list and break down more common yoga poses and their modifications. Both variations will offer you opportunity to build strength and stretch those tight muscles, while giving you the chance to choose which variation works best for you!
Before we get into the yoga poses, it’s first important to hit these three main points:
1) Warm-up: As in any type of physical exercise, it’s important to be warm!
Making sure the proper muscles used in each pose are warmed up, helps prevent injuries. If you are new to yoga, I recommend going for a 5 minute walk before your practice to get your body warm.
2) Breath awareness: Developing proper breath awareness is key to a strong yoga practice. Learning to use your breath properly allows you to go deeper into a pose and keep your core engaged (which will protect your spine from injury).
Begin practicing your Ujjayi (“victorious”) breath throughout your yoga practice. This breath sounds like an ocean wave and helps to warm your body from the inside out. This pranayama (breathing) technique increases concentration and helps to release tension in tight areas of the body.
To practice this Ujjayi breath: Seal your lips closed and place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. When you do this, you should feel a slight constriction in the back of your throat. Begin to breathe slowly in and out of the nose. Your breathing should feel textured and your exhales should be audible.
An important thing to remember is that you should always be able to keep your breath. If you lose your breath or start to strain, it is a sign to back out of the pose until you can find that balance between effort and ease!
3) Body awareness: Developing a strong yoga practice can give you a whole new awareness of your body. Starting with a basic physical yoga practice and practicing modifications with your poses is a great way to get in tune with your body.
For these 10 different poses you will just need a yoga block, a long pillow or thick rolled up blanket, a smaller rolled up blanket or towel, and a chair with no arms.
10 Easy vs Advanced Yoga Modifications
Downward Facing Dog
This pose is opens the calves, hamstrings, lats and lower back. It also strengthens the shoulders, upper back, arms, and core.
- Start by standing up facing the back of a chair. Place your hands on the chair and take a couple of steps back.
- Take a slight bend in your knees. Keeping your hands on the chair and your arms straight, exhale and begin to drop your chest down towards the floor so that you feel a stretch through your shoulders and lats. Adjust your feet so that your ankles are lined up underneath your hips, so that you are making a L-shape with your body.
- Hold for 8 Ujjayi breaths. Lengthen your spine on your inhales and on your exhales try to drop your chest a little bit close to the floor.
- Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position with your hips stacked over your knees, and your shoulders stacked over your wrists.
- Walk your hands forward about one hand print. Spread your fingers wide and grip the mat with your fingertips. Then, take an exhale as you press into your hands, tuck your toes and lift your hips up towards the ceiling to make a v-shape with your body.
- Keep pressing through your hands and have a slight bend in your knees. Keep your belly engaged. Press your chest back towards your thighs and look towards your belly button. Your back should be nice and straight. If you feel your back rounding, bend your knees until you can straighten it. Take 5 deep Ujjayi breaths here. With each inhale, try to lengthen your tailbone towards the ceiling a little bit more and with each exhale try and press your chest back closer to your thighs.
This pose stretches the lower back, hips, lats, and shoulders.
- To begin, place your rolled up blanket off to the side of your mat and place your long pillow vertically down the center of your mat. Come into a tabletop position and walk your knees out mat-width distance. Bring your big toes to touch.
- Take your rolled up blanket and place it right behind your knees. Then, sit your hips back towards your heels. Walk your hands up towards the top of your mat to lower your chest onto the long pillow. Bend your elbows and place your forearms on your mat to frame the pillow.
- Turn your head to one side and let your cheek rest down. Close your eyes and breathe here for 8-16 slow breaths, turning your head halfway through to even out your neck.
- Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Take your knees out wide towards the edges of your mat, then bring your big toes together to touch.
- Sit your hips back on your heels. Walk your hands towards the top of your mat and bring your forehead to rest down.
- Use each inhale to find length in your spine and use each exhale to melt your chest closer to the floor. Hold for 8 breaths.
This pose strengthens the back and abs.
- To start, stand facing a wall and place your palms against the wall with your elbows hugging in to your sides.
- Press against the wall with your palms, and draw your shoulder blades firmly into your upper back to broaden across your collarbones.
- Hold for 8 breaths. Use your inhales to squeeze your shoulder blades together, and use your exhales to relax the muscles of your face.
- Start by lying face-down on your mat. Bend your elbows to point up towards the ceiling and place your palms on the ground next to your ribs. Untuck your toes and let your forehead rest down so that your neck is long.
- Exhale to let out all of the air from your lungs. Press the tops of your feet firmly into the mat and inhale to peel just your forehead and chest off of the mat. Keep your palms light on the ground so that you are just using the strength of your back to keep your chest lifted.
- Keep your gaze straight down so that your neck stays long. Hold for 5 slow breaths. Use your inhales to lift your chest higher and use your exhales to relax the muscles of your face. When you are ready to release, lower down on an exhale.
This pose strengthens the core and opens up the hip flexors.
- Place a yoga block off to one side and then lie down on your mat face-up. Bend your knees and place your feet on your mat hips-width distance apart. Bring your arms straight down alongside your body with your palms face down.
- Inhale to press into your palms and feet, and lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Grab your block with one hand and place it underneath your sacrum, directly above your tailbone. Start with the block on the lowest setting, then try the medium setting if you decide you want more of a stretch.
- Lower your hips down onto the block and let both arms rest down on either side of the block. You can keep your knees bent or straighten out your legs long down your mat to get a deeper stretch through the front line of the body.
- Begin by lying down face-up on your mat. Bend your knees and place your feet hips-width distance apart on your mat. Place your arms straight down alongside your body with your palms face down.
- Walk your feet back towards your fingertips so that your heels are close to your glutes and still hips-width distance apart. Inhale to press into your palms and feet and lift your hips towards the ceiling.
- Let your glutes relax and keep your hips lifted for 8 breaths. Then, exhale to slowly lower back down.
This pose warms up the spine and opens the chest and back.
- Start by sitting in a chair with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head. Engage your belly.
- Inhale to go into a seated cow pose by pressing the back of your head into your palms. Keep your elbows out wide as you lift your chest towards the ceiling. You should feel a release through the front of your shoulders and chest.
- Exhale to go into a seated cat pose by pulling your elbows together and tucking your chin in towards your chest. Pull your belly in and round forward to feel a release in the back of your neck and your spine.
- Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Stack your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your wrists. Spread your fingers wide and look down between your hands so that your neck is long. Engage your belly.
- Inhale to go into cow pose by dropping your belly towards the floor and tilting your tailbone towards the ceiling. Squeeze your shoulders down your back and keep your neck long. Feel a release through your chest.
- Exhale to go into cat pose by rounding your spine to press your upper back towards the ceiling. Pull your belly in and tuck your chin to your chest. Feel a release through your upper back. Continue going breath to movement for 8 rounds of breath.
This pose stretches the hip flexors and calves and strengthens the core, quadriceps, and shoulders.
- Start standing so that you are facing the side of a chair. Step one foot over the chair so that you are standing over it.
- Make sure your feet are hips-width distance apart. Then, spin your back heel down so that the foot is at a 45 degree angle. Engage your lower belly and bend into your front knee, until your front thigh is resting on the top of the chair.
- Keep your back heel pressing firmly into the ground and lift your arms up to frame your ears, turning your pinkies in slightly. Hold for 8 breaths and then switch sides.
- Begin standing with one foot in front of the other with your feet hips width distance apart. Turn your back foot out at a 45 degree angle and press the heel into the mat.
- Hop your front foot up about a foot forward and bend into the front knee. Keep the back leg straight as you continue to press the heel down. Keep your lower belly engaged so that there is a natural curve in your spine. Your hips should be square to the top of your mat.
- Reach your arms up to frame your ears and turn your pinkies in slightly. Relax your shoulders down your back. Hold for 8 breaths and then switch sides.
This pose strengthens the quads, core, upper back, and shoulders.
- Start by placing your rolled up blanket near the top of your mat.
- Step one heel on the blanket and then the other so that your heels are lifted but the balls of your feet are still on the mat. Your feet should be hips-width distance apart.
- Reach your arms out in front of you so that your hands are in line with your shoulders. Engage your belly. Then, sit your hips back like you are sitting into a chair. Lower half way down and hold for 8 breaths.
- To begin, stand up with your feet together. Your big toes should touch and there should be a sliver of space between your heels. Reach your arms up to frame your ears with your pinkies turned in slightly.
- Keep the weight in your heels and take an exhale as you sit your hips back like you are sitting into a chair. Sit about halfway down and keep your belly engaged so that you have a natural curve at your lower back. Make sure to keep your chest lifted.
- Hold for 8 breaths and then inhale to stand back up.
This pose strengthens your core, shoulders, and quadriceps and stretches the hamstrings.
- Begin standing on your mat with one foot in front of the other. Keep your front toes pointing forward and turn your back foot to a 45 degree angle so that the heel is pressing down. Both heels should be in line with one another. Place a block inside of your front foot.
- Reach your arms out with the palms face up and engage your belly.
- Take an inhale to reach your front hand forward and tilt your hips back. As you exhale, tick-tock your arms to 12 as the ceiling. Keep your belly and your quadriceps engaged. With each exhale try and twist your chest and ribs open towards the ceiling. Hold for 5 breaths then inhale to stand back up. Switch sides.
- Begin standing on your mat with one foot in front of the other. Keep your front toes pointing forward and turn your back foot to a 45 degree angle so that the heel is pressing down. Both heels should be in line with one another.
- Reach your arms out with the palms face up and engage your belly. Take an inhale to reach your front hand forward and tilt your hips back. Spin your chest towards the ceiling slightly.
- As you exhale, tick-tock your arms to 12 and 6 o’clock. Spread your fingers wide and reach through all 10 fingertips. Keep your belly and your quadriceps engaged. With each exhale try and twist your chest and ribs open towards the ceiling. Hold for 5 breaths then inhale to stand back up. Switch sides.
This pose releases the spine, opens the hips, and aids in digestion.
- Begin sitting on a block on the lowest setting with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and cross the leg over your left thigh to place your right foot outside of your left thigh. Then, bend your left knee and bring your left heel in towards your right sitting bone. Tip: If this is still too much on your left knee, keep the left leg out straight.
- Inhale to reach your arms up over your head. Exhale to twist to the right. Tent your right fingertips behind you and wrap your left arm around your right shin.
- Hold here for 5 breaths then switch sides. Use your inhales to sit up tall and use your exhales to pull your belly in a twist deeper through your mid-back. Keep your neck long the entire time.
- Begin sitting on your mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and cross the leg over your left thigh to place your right foot outside of your left thigh. Then, bend your left knee and bring your left heel in towards your right sitting bone.
- Inhale to reach your arms up over your head. Exhale to twist to the right. Tent your right fingertips behind you and hook your left triceps outside of your right thigh.
- Hold here for 5 breaths then switch sides. Use your inhales to sit up tall and use your exhales to pull your belly in to deepen the twist through your mid back. Keep your neck long the entire time.
Standing Forward Fold
This pose stretches the hamstrings, lower back, and releases the spine.
- Start by placing a block at the top of your mat. Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart and take a generous bend in your knees. Engage your belly.
- Take an exhale and keep a flat back as you lower your chest down and reach your hands towards the block.
- Keep your knees bent a lot so that your belly is resting on your thighs. Let your head hang heavy so that the back of your neck can release. Hold for 8 breaths then slowly roll up to stand on an inhale.
- Begin standing with your feet hips-width distance. Find a micro bend in your knees and engage your belly.
- Take an exhale and keep a flat back as you lower your chest down and reach your hands towards the floor.
- Keep the micro bend in your knees and try to keep your belly touching your thighs. Let your head hang heavy so that the back of your neck can release. Hold for 8 breaths then slowly roll up to stand on an inhale.
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