Blog post one
Easy yoga modifications
All right. So yoga is for everyone. Anyone can do it! Especially that super bendy ninety year old. And that crazy in shape lady who has had six kids and still looks younger than you. And that vegan who seems to float. But yoga is for everyone. Right?
Yeah well, maybe it doesn’t always feel like it. Maybe sometimes as you’re suffering through even child’s pose you’re thinking, I don’t think this is for me. I can’t do this. And I’ll be honest, no you can’t.
Woah, woah woah. What am I saying?
I’m saying that if you’re struggling, seeing no progress, and ca’t do the poses that you need to back off and find modifications. I worked on forward fold for years and didn’t improve an inch. In fact, I’m pretty sure I got worse. But then one day, I decided to go at it with a straight back. It took about a month to figure out the actual form and untrain all the bad habits I’d formed, but in another six months, I could reach way, way farther.
So of course you can do it. But sometimes, you must modify in order to actually make progress.
We aren’t born coordinated. The exact opposite of that. Think of a baby realizing it has a foot. Or the first, shakey, drunk-looking steps of a toddler. And it’s hard to do yoga.
The problem is, we’re pretty much born with an ego. We’re born doing the things that make us feel good. Which is, eating, sleeping, and finding things that give us those happy chemicals. And what doesn’t do that is feeling like you’re the worst yoga practitioner in the room, or ever.
When you see someone not just touching their toes but grabbing the block on the other side of their feet, you feel yucky. Especially if you can’t even get halfway. So, you push to reach. Strain your back. Maybe you keep falling out of a balancing pose so you keep pushing, get frustrated and end up pulling something or smacking yourself on the ground.
Trying to better than your idea of “perfect”, trying to be better than someone else, or trying to look more impressive/flexible/cool is only going to hurt you in the short and long run.
So before we get into the modifications for various body problems and pains and common struggles, I want to urge you to do one thing: drop your pride.
Pushing yourself is key. It’s so important to be the best you can be but it’s pointless to push yourself if you’re just trying to get better than someone else or look good.
Enough of that, let’s get into the modifications.
If you have knee pain, or tend to feel strain do not do certain poses. Sometimes, our knees can’t and shouldn’t bend some ways. Let’s look at hero’s pose. Or cross-legged pose. Or a yogic squat. Put a block under your butt. Give yourself some additional support and take the strain off your knee. Additionally, avoid doing low lunge with your knee down without something like a blanket.
How can you avoid knee pain? Be mindful of your knee tracking over your ankle and pointing forward. Don’t let it go to the inside or way over your toes. Finally, incorporate cycling into your life since it builds strong stabilizer muscles around your knee.
Bend. Your. Knees. I cannot tell you how easy of a solution this is. Keep a flat back and bend your knees. Instead of rounding your back and putting pressure in places it shouldn’t be, keep a flat back and bend your knees. This applies in down dog too. Don’t be afraid to use a strap!
How to avoid hamstring tightness? Be consistent about your practice and choose good form over reaching that extra inch or two. Build up hamstring strength, not just flexibility.
Chill. Don’t try to reach your toes. Or your head to the mat. Or twisting farther. Get yourself a block and use it. Similar to hamstring tightness, back tightness and pain can come from rounding too much in the spine and forcing a stretch. Keep a flat back and think about belly to the thighs not head to the knee.
How to fix this issue? Do strengthen your back. Locust pose is a phenomenal way to do this as is baby cobra, cobra, and updog. Don’t forget to use and strengthen your glutes.
This one also comes back to pride. We don’t want to tip all over the place and look bad. But if you’re practicing at home, don’t be afraid to use what you have around you. Grab a sturdy chair. Use the wall. It’s all there. You just have to use it.
This has an easy remedy. Just keep practicing! Your balance will get better the more you practice. Take your shoes off a little more and make sure your feet are in good health.
Speaking of using your props, use a strap in twists if you have shoulder tightness. It’s important in twists, folds, downward facing dog, chaturanga, updog/cobra, and many others that we keep our shoulders up and not drooping down. These are not positions we want a rounding of the upper back. We want to activate those muscles and protect our shoulders. So please use a strap for binds. It really helps.
There’s one very big takeaway here: let go of your pride and use your props.
It seems like a really simple thing, but it’s important that we remind ourselves we are only as good as our form. If our form is bad, then our body will feel bad. And that’s really discouraging.
Props are not a sign of weakness or inability. All they indicate is that today, during this practice you need a prop. You might need one on one side but not the other. And that’s okay. What matters is that you are practicing with good form, an open heart, and a beginner’s mind. No pride. Only the willingness to better yourself and to learn.