Yoga pose basics
The things to know about yoga poses before you do them
Published: 2013 05 07
Updated: 2020 10 24
Once you've started to get a taste for doing yoga poses it can be helpful to have some guidelines for how to actually operate your body while doing yoga poses. This page ideally helps you with everything you might need to know about yoga poses so that you can do them safely and effectively.
Yoga Pose Basics Index
Perhaps one of the most basic actions you can do in any yoga pose is to create stability. A related idea is that of grounding. Here's a overview of grounding: Grounding your yoga pose.
You can read about stability in stability in yoga poses.
You can use yoga poses to learn your body. This is as opposed to just doing yoga poses. Find out how in Using yoga poses to learn your body.
For more on learning your body while getting into the flow at the same time check out Yoga pose brush strokes.
For some reasons on why you should do yoga (or for some of the benefits) check out Why do yoga?.
As for getting started with a yoga practice, here are some ideas for starting one at home: yoga home practice. In addition, you might also like to check out these beginner yoga poses.
If you still aren't sure why you should do yoga or what you should focus on, then check out beginning a yoga practice to help you get a clearer idea.
Resting is generally included at the end of a yoga class. However, it can be a good idea to rest in between poses. This doesn't mean looking at your phone though. It means simply being still whether standing or sitting or lying prone on your belly.
In these cases resting can be a chance to observe the effects of the pose that you've just done. It can also be a chance to think about things you can change if you repeat the pose.
Resting between poses or between repetitions of a pose or stretch can also simply be a chance to realize that the pose actually wasn't that bad.
While stability and grounding are both important when doing yoga, in terms of feeling your body, there is one other thing that you can focus on to make feeling your body easier. It's covered in Improving proprioception and control.
You can read another take on this same idea, influenced by lessons from partner dancing, in Making your Yoga Pose Sensational.
Something that you can do in nearly any yoga poses to make it easier to connect to your body is to add bigness. The simple reason is that it creates space in your body and that in turn adds tension to connective tissue which in turn makes it easier to feel your body.
When you work at making your body big, expansive, stability can happen as a by-product.
You can read more about adding bigness in Adding bigness to your yoga poses.
Once you are used to creating bigness, you can go about adjusting the amount of bigness, or tuning it.
Creating tensegrity in yoga poses is akin to tuning the connective tissue elements of the body so that we can sense the moment there is a change in forces acting on it and so that we can respond the moment that change is detected.
For suggestions for sequencing yoga poses take a look at sequencing yoga poses and sequencing yoga poses 2.
If you are designing your own yoga pose routine, something to be aware of is how to balance actions. For more details check out counterposes.
Another important idea is learning how to modify yoga poses. That can be as simple as using a wall, yoga blocks, a chair or yoga strap for support. More detailed suggestions are covered in modifying yoga poses.
Some yoga teachers like to focus on alignment. Others like to focus on breathing. Some like to focus on a little bit of both.
I think proper yoga alignment isn't so much about aligning one part of your body with another, though that can be a good starting point. Instead, it is learning to feel when you are aligned. That means tuning in to tension and muscle activation sensation.
Put another way, alignment is like tuning into a radio station. You turn the dial to whatever station you want. However, if the reception is staticky, then you have to turn the knob a little left or right, sometimes repeatedly till you get clear reception.
So while alignment is a good starting point, I'd suggest that tuning your positioning (or "adjusting it") is even more important.
How do you prevent injury while doing your yoga practice? There are a few simple reasons that people injure themselves while doing yoga, particularly when just beginning. Those reasons and what you can do to lessen the chance of injury are covered in preventing injury when starting yoga.
Preventing injury can be more difficult in a class setting. And so one of the ways that you can prevent injury is to get a better feel for your body outside of class.
Perhaps one of the more important things you can do for long term joint health is learn how to control your muscles to keep your joints lubricated. For more on that check out the joints and muscles page.
One problem that can come up with difficult yoga poses, particularly those where there is the real (or imaginary) possibility of falling is dealing with fear. One way that yoga can be useful is that it can provide the opportunity for practicing dealing with situations where we might be fearful. Another approach is to figure out how we've dealt with fear in other situations and apply it do doing the yoga poses that scare us. For myself, I've done a bit of both. You can read how in dealing with fear and also in overcoming fear in yoga.
If you are just beginning a yoga practice, a good place to start would be with Beginners Yoga Routine.
For a beginners routine that is a little more challenging, take a look at Beginners Yoga.
I first learned a bit about the bandhas when practicing Ashtanga yoga.
One way to look at the three bandhas is as philosophical constructs. Mula bandha or the root bandha corresponds to the idea of foundation. Uddayana bandha, flying up, corresponds to the idea of creating space, even that of expressing whatever it is that you are doing. Meanwhile, jalandhara bandha is a way of tying the previous two together. You could think of it as the bandha that unifies. (I talk about similiar ideas in my ebook Know to flow which is also linked to at the bottom of this page!)
In more physical terms, mula bandha can correspond to engaging the pelvic floor muscles, and that's how I talk about it in Mula bandha.
Meanwhile, uddiyana bandha can correspond to the activation of the transverse abdominis (at least that's one way of looking at it). Read more in Uddiyana bandha.
You can also read an overview of the three bandhas in Bandhas
For some simple video routines on youtube to help you connect to your body check out Yoga routine and mini-routine videos. For more focused yoga videos check out this page: yoga videos.
These videos are all presented by me (i.e. I do and teach all of the exercises) and they are all designed to help you better feel and control your body while doing yoga. If you like the way I present these videos, but dislike the ads, then do check out the video courses below.
1 Hip flexors
Improve knee and hip stability via your sartorius, tensor fascia latae and rectus femoris.
Improve control of knee rotation, hip flexion and hip extension by learning how to anchor your hamstrings.
3 Thigh muscles
Get a better feel for your quadriceps, adductors and hamstrings. Improve knee and hip stability and control.
4 Long thigh muscles
Work towards better knee, hip joint and hip bone control via your long thigh muscles.
5 Deep Hip muscles
Improve hip joint stability and get a better feel for your hip joint and the muscles that work on it.
6 SI joints
Get a taste of coordinating SI joint control with control of your spine, arms and legs.
Improve your touch control as well as basic shoulder blade awareness in unweighted and weighted yoga poses.
Improve mobility of your spine and ribcage while simultaneously building awareness and control.
Muscle Control from first principles,
Get all 8 courses as a bundle for $360. For a further 30% discount on any of these products visit my patreon page
Yoga pose basics, Quick links
- Astavakrasana Yoga Arm Balance
- Sensational Yoga Ebooks (and videos): Books (and videos) with exercises and explanations to help you better feel and control your body and understand it
- Mayurasana: Simple tips for getting your feet off of the floor
- Walking with a Twist: Strengthen your mid-section
- 5 Sensational Yoga Routines for Beginners: With Simple Exercises for Joint Health, Better Balance and for Strengthening, Spine, Shoulders, Hips, Knees and Feet
- Eagle Pose Arms and Legs: Learning to Wrap Your Arms independently Of Your legs
- Biceps femoris, outer hamstring pain: alleviating hamstring pain
- Concepts Of Tai Chi for Yoga and Life : Finding Balance
- Hip joint:: How to feel it, use it and keep it lubricated
- Inverted Yoga Poses: Working towards balancing while upside down
- Joint Centration: : The Position of Balanced Space and Tension
- Activating the Latissimus Dorsai Muscle: Anatomy for Yoga Teachers
- Learning to Flow: Pre-thinking before boarding the river of time
- Leg Strengthening Exercises: Using Body Weight, Friction and Pressure
- Yoga For Your Shoulders ebook
- Learning to bind in Marichyasana A: Working towards binding intelligently
- Camel Yoga Pose (Ustrasana): Camel pose as a Hip Flexor (and Psoas) Stretch
- Proprioception Requires Effort: Learning How to Apply Effort Effectively to Improve Proprioception
- Proprioception, Pain and Posture: Fixing pain and poor posture via muscle control, proprioception
- Inner Body and Outer Body Tensegrity: How joint tensegrity is maintained
- Thin Slicing: Thinking can lead to Blinking!
- Understanding The Psoas: With suggestions on how to activate it
- Yoga notes
- Yoga Poses: Categorized articles on better feeling your body while doing yoga poses
- Yoga to Improve Posture Improve Your Posture with these Yoga Exercises: Improve Your Posture with these Yoga Exercises
- Leg Lifted Seated Hamstring Stretch: aka: Modified Heron Pose
- Janusirsasana A: Stretch Your Tight Hamstrings One Leg at a Time
- Janu Sirsasana B: Place Your Anus On Top Of Your Heel
- Getting Ready for Janu Sirsasana C: A prep for Lotus pose or vice versa?