Stop Doing These 3 Things in Yoga Class

Here’s what you’re doing wrong and also how to fix it:

First, if you’re doing vinyasa or “flow” yoga on any sort of regular basis, you’re most likely busting up your shoulders when you transition into chaturanga.

Chaturanga is often called a “yoga push-up”, which is problematic. Push-ups are often done with more focus on reps than actual form. Because of that, chaturanga is often approached the same way — more reps is all that matters.

With this mentality, most people experience the pose in a way that avoids most of the strengthening benefit and brings excess pressure in the shoulder. By just “going down” from plank to chaturanga, the elbows slide behind the wrists, the shoulders shrug towards the ears, and, with a lot of reps, becomes an issue for the shoulder.

Instead of thinking about reps, I’d encourage you to think more about the quality of each individual rep. Specifically, can you keep your elbows over your wrists as your move from plank to chaturanga and can you keep your shoulders at or slightly above your elbows?

Yes, it’s harder. But, isn’t that the point?

Second, you’re most likely over-bending in the lower back in lunges and forward folds.

For some reason, everyone wants to keep a straight back leg in high lunge. If you have massively open hip flexors (which most athletes don’t have) then, sure, go for the straight back leg. If you’re like most humans, the straight back leg combined with a lifting chest brings an unnecessarily deep back bend into the lower back, which is already hypermobile in that direction.

The solution? Simply bend your back knee to keep your hips level. Now, that lifting chest becomes a source for a big hip, quad, and core stretch and takes all pressure out of the low back.

The same advice applies to forward folds: Bend your knees first and then work towards straightening them.

When you start with straight legs, those with tighter hamstrings (does any athlete not have tight hamstrings?) have leave no slack in the back of their legs to compensate for the forward hinging at the hips. The only place the stretch can go is into the lower back which I can’t bear to watch anymore.

Finally, I see too many people doing pigeon pose with very little understanding of how an incorrect pigeon can wreak havoc on the knees.

In pigeon, if you don’t know how to adjust the pose to keep pressure out of the lateral side of the front knee, you’re essentially inviting all of your body weight onto the crucially important ligaments of the knee.

Pigeon requires experience because it gives gravity the upper hand. Most people think any flexibility is good flexibility, but we actually want our muscles to have the range of motion and for our ligaments to be as tight as possible. With more risky pigeons comes stretching the knee’s ligaments and an unstable joint — not what you’re looking for if you use your knees in life.

Instead, flip pigeon on its back and do figure four pose. It gives you the upper hand against gravity and puts you in control of what’s going on in that critically-important knee joint.

If you’re interested in learning more, watch the tutorial and feel free to ask any question in the comments section. Thank you for taking the time to make these small adjustments in your yoga practice.

Start using yoga to live athletically:

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

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About the Author:

Joe is the Founder of Icewater Yoga. Fascinated by the intersection of yoga and sport, his goal is to help athletes develop a consistent yoga practice. He lives in Claremont, CA with his wife, Jill.