Asana Modifications

Yoga can be a great way to improve health, get in shape and calm your mind. However, some of the poses can be  difficult if you have an injury or you just haven’t practiced yoga before. To help below are some modifications for some popular asanas.

IMG_5385Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svasana)

This asana can be challenging for the beginner or those who have heart conditions or a hard time coming from standing to the floor swiftly.

For this modification start on all fours on your knees. Fold the mat under for more cushion for you knees if you need or wear knee pads (volleyball pads work great). Straighten your arms out in front of you on the floor. Push your hands firmly into the mat. Now lean your hips back and dip your spine down. Keep a micro bend in your elbows and look at the floor. Breath and on the out breath try to stretch your spine closer to the floor. Don’t worry if your back doesn’t arch down the important part is to feel a stretch in your spine.

If you have heart conditions speak to your doctor before doing this pose. Lowering your head below your heart could cause medical problems.


Plank (Uttihita Chaturaunga Dandasana)

This pose can be challenging for the core and can cause discomfort for people with lower back problems.

To modify lower one or both legs keeping your toes curled under or the top of your foot flat on the floor. Legs are back at about 70 degrees. Elbows micro bent. Look down at the ground and tuck your pelvis under by rotating your tail bone towards your stomach.




IMG_5391 Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

This pose can be challenging for those with knee injury. This modification uses a pilates pose called Threading the Needle. Lie on your back and bend one knee leg parallel to your shoulders. Bring the other leg up bent parallel to the edge of your mat. Bring your arm through the ‘hole’ created by your front leg and clasp your hands over the shin of your back leg. Breath in and try to bring your shin closer to your body.





IMG_5398 Seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana)

A strap can really help someone to improve their flexibility. With Seated Forward Fold sit up tall with your legs infront of you and together. You’ll want a micro bend in the knees to protect the joint. Take the strap (in my case a 4 inch wide by 6 foot long strip of linen) in both hands with lots of give. Loop it around your feet. Now slowly wrap the strap around your hands bringing your body closer to your legs. Breath in and straighten your spine breath out and try to come a little closer to your legs.





IMG_5397 Forward splits (Hanumanasana)

Splits are very challenging and it is easy to cause injury while you try to hold yourself in the position. To modify lie on your back and raise your leg straight up from your hip. Micro bend your knee. Take your strap in both hand and loop in around the bottom of your foot at your arch. Breath in and on the out breath pull your leg towards your face pushing down with your opposite leg to the floor.






Strenthen and lengthen your calf and achilles tendon. Find a sturdy chair in your house. It can be small like this one or come up to your hips. Stand behind the chair and place your hands on the back. Breath in and lift up to your toes using the chair to balance. Breath out and lower.  To advance use the tips of your fingers or just one hand.










Still standing behind he chair grip the back of it. Step one leg back pushing your heel into the floor. Breath in and breath out try to get your heel closer to the ground. To advance step your leg back further.









Warrior I pose (Virabhadrasana)

Warrior I can be challenging for beginners or people with lower back injury or knee injury. Placing yourself behind your sturdy chair grasp both hands on the back of the chair. step back one leg. Bend the front leg as much at a 45 degree angle as you can. Plant your front foot firmly into the mat. If you have a lower back injury lean your body slightly forward instead of straightening it over your hips.  Breath in and on the out breath try to move deeper into the pose.






Tree balance pose. (Vrksasana)

Balancing poses are challenging and should be taken slowly to prevent injury. To modify this pose stand in mountain pose. Pick up each foot and firmly plant it into your mat. Make sure you feel yourself solidly in your center of gravity. Bring your hands to heart center. Pick up one foot and lean your heal into your ankle with the ball of your toe touching your mat. Square your hips, micro bend your straight knee and find a drishti point on the floor in front of you to focus on. Remember to breath.







Triangle pose (Trikonasana)

This pose can be challenging if you have tight quads or if you are a beginner. Its one of those poses that are more tricky than you think. Start in mountain pose and step one leg back about 2 to 2 1/2 shoulder lengths. Micro bend your knees. Bring your arms out to either side straight out from your shoulders breathing in and expanding your chest. Breath out and hinge your torso down over your legs bringing your hand to your thigh or shin but not your knee. Expand your chest and straighten your back as you breath in. Tuck your pelvis under and keep your torso in line with your legs.

I hope these modifications prove helpful. Remember to move at your own pace and honor your own yoga practice. Enjoy!


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