There’s nothing worse than finally getting yourself to yoga class and then your yoga instructor calls out certain yoga poses that you just.can’t.do.
Rather than grunting through them and shifting your weight awkwardly as you try to balance through the pain, take the time to learn a few adjustments that you can easily make to the pose to make it more comfortable for you.
Whether you’re a beginner that’s new to yoga, dealing with an injury, or even pregnant, there are certain yoga poses that can do more harm than good when not done properly.
Even certain standing poses sometimes need a little modification!
If you have limited range of motion, wrist or knee pain, excess weight at the midline (thanks to pregnancy)…
…or just even need time to strengthen your muscles or joints, making modifications to certain postures can really save you.
In this video, I go over easy yoga modifications for 6 postures:
It’s *essential* to learn these modifications for yoga poses rather than pushing yourself into a pose that could potentially injure you more!
Remember, your job is to make sure you listen to your body and create a practice that meets you where you are — not to strive and push harder if you’re feeling pain or discomfort.
Stretching should never bring sharp pain, especially since many poses are held for extended periods of time. So these yoga modifications will make your practice safer and more comfortable.
You might also like: A Slow, Sweet Hatha Yoga Sequence for Beginners [+VIDEO]
My Top 6 Yoga Modifications That Everyone Can Do
Modifications are like the secret language of yoga that make poses accessible to everyone regardless of their ability. So let’s take a look at some of the common modifications.
You can make more advanced poses that you see in my sequences accessible to you right now with some of these modifications.
For a pose like side plank, you can modify by keeping the lower knee on the ground throughout the whole plank. You can also modify it by coming into the side plank but with your top leg out in front of you with the sole of your foot pressed down.
These are just two options for this pose that can make it easier on your muscles and joints, depending on where you need support.
High lunge is something you’ll see me doing in all my classes, but high lunges can always be modified by taking the back knee to the ground. You can also opt to have the hands on the hips instead of the hands up high for more stability and support.
Say we’re in a high lunge, coming into a twist in prayer. You can modify this as well just by coming down onto the back knee and working your twist right from here.
Another thing I love to do is to do side stretches while you’re in the lunge. I usually instruct to take the hand to the hip or the hands or the floor while you reach the other arm up and over, giving you a nice stretch all along the side from your pelvic region up through your chest.
But the reality is you can use a block to make this pose a lot more accessible.
Eagle pose, where you cross up the elbows and interlace the hands, is not accessible for so many of us. Especially when we also cross our knees in chair pose!
So I like to suggest an eagle pose to just get as close as you can to yourself or to hug your back. reaching back toward your spine. Move the fingers inward towards the shoulder blade if you can, and then drawing the shoulders down and back. It’ll just look like you’re giving yourself a big hug with the elbows stacked while still holding eagle legs (knees crossed in chair pose).
You can always take cactus arms and instead of wrapping one leg on top of the other, just place the top foot on the mat so you have a lot of stability. You don’t necessarily need to wrap all the way round, which can torque the hips. Just stay where it’s comfortable.
And then you can play with moving the foot off the floor if you want to balance or just keeping it there so you have a lot of stability.
Remember, with every balancing pose, you can also use the wall to help you if you have any risks.
If you have issues with putting weight on your wrists for extended periods of time, then you can always come down onto your forearms. For example, you can always move from regular plank onto your forearms. The same goes for side plank too so that your weight isn’t on your wrists.
For many, child’s pose is super tricky to get into, especially if you have tight hips or pelvis. You can use a block or bolster underneath your seat for more support to get you more lift and then use a block or some books to rest your forehead. It’s really nice to have the forehead connecting and grounding into something solid, so if you can’t reach the floor, just bring the floor to you through blocks or books.
Traditionally, tree pose is taught with the sole of the foot connecting with the inner thigh by the groin. A nice modification is to just take the sole of the foot to the ankle and begin working on your balance there. If you fall out of it, it’s just less strenuous on the body and you can still get all the same benefits of the pose. The most important thing to remember is just not to have the foot on the actual knee joint, so modify by putting the foot on the ankle or by using a wall for support.
One of the most challenging things about a lot of yoga classes is the action of kicking and lifting the leg and stepping it through and to warrior two or high lunge or whatever pose that we’re doing. If this is just too advanced for you, you can always be on all fours and then you can just step the leg up. So if I’m instructing to raise the leg and bring the knee to the nose, you can do this in all fours and just have a lot more stability. It’s so easy to do and allows you to easily step the legs through, or to even help the leg up by using your hand.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to common modifications that you could use, use modifications in your practice and your body will thank you. Remember that yoga is supposed to be individualized and tailored to what works for you, not the other way round 🙂