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Whether you glide from pose to pose, or sweat and shake the entire class as you sink into savasana, there’s no denying the awesome power of yoga. But there’s one thing every yogi, beginner or advanced, needs to be aware of — practicing with improper alignment class after class can lead to some nasty injuries. To mark International Yoga Day, we take a closer look at some common misalignments and easy solves that lead to a stronger practice.
The misalignment: Trying to get your heels flat on the floor, which often entails a shorter dog. The spine — especially the low back — rounds.
The fix: To find the right length in your dog: start in plank, then push through your palms to send your hips to the sky. Don’t worry about getting your heels on the ground — the main goal of down dog is to traction the spine. Keep a softness in the knees to allow the tilt of the sitting bones upwards, creating length in the low back at the same time. Once you’ve achieved a long spine you can work on straightening the legs and lowering the heels.
The misalignment: Hips either dip too low or lift too high, so the body doesn’t form one strong, straight, line.
The fix: Line wrists up under shoulders and extend legs back behind you with your feet hip-width apart. Hug naval to spine, slightly tuck your pelvis, and feel your way into a straight line from head to toes.
The misalignment: Arcing the side body and leaning forward to allow the hand to make contact with the shin or ground.
The fix: As you lean the body over the front leg, send the hips in the opposite direction. Hinge from the hip as you maintain length in the side body, then twist your torso towards the sky and gaze upwards.
The misalignment: The shoulders round forwards and the chest lowers all the way to the ground, as the butt lifts.
The fix: Start in a strong plank with an engaged core. Externally rotate your arm so the elbow creases face forwards, then lower yourself halfway down until your arms form a 90-degree angle. Keep your elbows hugging into the body and imagine your shoulder blades moving down the back to keep your shoulders from falling forwards.
The misalignment: Shoulders round forwards and unengaged legs cause the hips to sink towards the ground.
The fix: Engage the legs and push through the tops of the feet to find lift. As you simultaneously push the ground away with your hands, roll the shoulders backwards and away from the ears. Keep a light engagement in the core to protect your spine.
The misalignment: A super arched lower-back takes engagement out of the core. The ribs pop out.
The fix: Zip your legs together, bend your knees and bring your weight into your heels. Engage your core and slightly tuck in your tail bone.