14 common beginner Yoga pose mistakes

14 Common Beginner Yoga Pose Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Have you ever practised Yoga, only to end up back with a sore back or neck, or strained wrists, knees or feet?

It’s surprising how often Yoga students miss out on proper instruction on different Yoga poses, whether in a class environment or a home Yoga practice.  Often, this can lead to injury and discomfort, especially if there are any pre-existing injuries or physical limitations.

Yoga injuries are surprisingly common and growing in frequency,  especially as older students take up the practice.  In fact, even Yoga poses that count as easy or suitable for beginners can cause pains and strains if not learnt properly from the beginning.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of the most common Yoga pose mistakes and how to correct them, as well as the use of props to avoid injuries. 

In the article below, we check out what can go wrong with 14 common Yoga poses and what you can do to avoid potential pain or injury.

With this knowledge in mind, you will be far better prepared for your Yoga class or home practice and aware of what you need to tell your Yoga teacher.

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

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Mountain pose is the foundation for all standing poses.  Specifically, it helps us develop awareness of our bodies, and improve posture, stability and confidence.

Common Mistakes:  The legs and the core are not engaged.  Consequently, the upper body slouches and the head tilts forward.  This promotes ongoing bad posture.

Solution:

  • Tuck the tailbone slightly under
  • Lift kneecaps to tighten leg muscles
  • Draw the belly towards the spine and engage the core
  • Relax the shoulders and let hands hang loosely by side, facing forward
  • The neck is straight and the chin is parallel with the floor.  Imagine an invisible string lifting the head from its crown.

2. Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

 

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The tree pose is a wonderful pose to strengthen feet and legs and create better balance, grounding and self-confidence.

Common Mistakes:  The foot is placed on the knee, causing it to be pushed out.  In addition, if the hip juts, it is difficult to remain balanced.

Solution:

  • Place the foot either on the ankle, calf or upper inner thighs  – but avoid the knee
  • Keep both hips square and aligned
  • Stand next to a wall, table or chair to hold on to if necessary.

3. Hero Pose (Virasana)

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Hero pose is a very common pose at the beginning and end of Yoga practice.  Similarly, Yoga meditations can be used for Yoga meditations.  The pose provides a deep stretch for knees, ankles and feet, assisted by the body weight that rests on the heels.

Common Mistakes: For anyone with issues around the knees, ankles and feet, hero pose without adequate care or support can be risky and painful.

Solution:  Make sure you are adequately prepared for hero pose by either using props or omitting the pose altogether:

  • for sore knees, place a blanket or shallow pillow behind the knees, or support your bottom on a block or yoga bolster
  • if you have sore ankles and feet, place a blanket or shallow pillow under your ankle joints
  • if neither prop works for you, take a break in a seated position.

4.  Child’s Pose (Balasana)

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Child’s pose helps stretch the hips, thighs, knees and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue.  In addition, it is one of the common Yoga poses used to relax and rest during and after Yoga practice.

Common Mistakes: As with hero pose, anyone with issues around knees, ankles and feet can experience overstretching and pain in child’s pose.

Solution:

  • If you have no props, only perform child’s pose as far as you can manage, keeping your bottom as far in the “air” as necessary
  • For sore knees, place a blanket or shallow pillow behind the knees, or rest your bottom/body on a block or yoga bolster
  • If you have sore ankles and feet, place a blanket or shallow pillow under your ankle joints.

5. Standing or Seated Forward Bend (Uttasana, Paschimottanasana)

 

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Forward bends, whether standing or seated, are a great way to strengthen the core and leg muscles.  Likewise, they  deeply stretch the hamstrings and calves.

Standing forward bends also are effective inversion, allowing body fluids to reverse their flow.  This has an invigorating effect.

In contrast, seated forward bends are more relaxing and place less stress on the lower back than in standing forward bends.

Common Mistake: People with tight hamstrings tend to bend their lower back rather than their hip joints.  This can easily lead to injuries of the lower back.  Without a doubt, this is one of the most common Yoga injuries.

Solution:

  • People with limited hamstring flexibility and Yoga beginners should keep their knees bent throughout the pose
  • Engage the core and leg muscles when coming out of a forward bend
  • Place hands on a chair or block to place the hands in standing forward bend to slowly ease into the pose
  • Use a belt in a seated forward bend
  • With practice and increasing hamstring flexibility, allow the legs to become straighter.

6. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

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Chair pose is one of the best poses to strengthen your legs and gaining greater confidence and mobility.

Common Mistakes:  The knees extend over toes, placing pressure on the knees.  It is also possible that the arms are raised too high, causing tightness in the shoulder and neck, as well as the lower back.

Solution:  

  • Tail bone is tucked in and the core is engaged
  • Knees are bent at an angle that allows toes to remain visible from the top
  • Keep arms extended up to a comfortable level while keeping the shoulders and the neck relaxed.

7. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

 

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Downward facing dog gives an incredible stretch from the feet all the way up to the hips.  It also stretches the upper body including the upper back, shoulder blades and arms, right down to the wrists and hands.

At the same time, it engages the front of the thighs, the core as well as shoulders and arms.  As an inversion, it increases circulation, especially to the brain.  As a result, downward dog rejuvenates and strengthens the whole body.

Common Mistakes:  A common downward dog mistake is that most of the weight rests on the wrists, placing a strain on them.  Often, the lower back bends downwards and the legs are kept straight, putting pressure on the lower back.  In addition, the thighs and the core are not engaged.

Solution:

  • Bend knees and keep heels off the floor, unless your hamstrings are very flexible
  • Engage the core and raise sitting bone as high as you can
  • Keep the back straight and long
  • Shift the weight from the wrists to the fingers and pads of the hands – fingers are widespread
  • Roll shoulders outwards to open the chest.

8. Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

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Warrior II pose is a wonderful pose that engages the whole body.  It builds leg strength, opens the hips and expands the chest.  The pose forms a stable base to help students connect with the earth, and cultivate balance, strength and mobility.

Common Mistakes: The stance is too short and most of the weight is on the front leg.  The front leg extends beyond the toes, putting pressure on the knees.  This is further exacerbated if the knee drops in instead of being well aligned with the extended arms.

Solution:

  • Engage the back leg fully, keeping the back foot parallel with the end of the mat
  • Place the knee of the front leg over the ankle
  • Extend the arms straight on both sides and in parallel with the mat
  • Open the chest.

9.  Triangle Pose

 

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The Triangle pose is a balancing pose that tones the abdominal organs, the diaphragm and the spinal nerves.  It also strengthens the front of the legs and feet, while stretching the back of the legs, groins, hips, shoulders, chest and spine.

Common Mistakes: Bending sideways using the lower back, instead of bending from the hips.  Letting the head drop.

Solution:

  • Keep both legs straight and engaged – each knee is well aligned with the corresponding foot
  • Bend from the hip to one side, while keeping a straight line through the side, neck and head
  • Roll shoulders out and extend both arms straight and long
  • Use a block or other prop if your hamstrings are tight.

10. Plank Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

 

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Plank pose is one of those love-hate poses because it is tough.  However, it is one of the best poses to strengthen the arms, wrists, and spine, and for toning the abdomen

Common Mistakes:  The core is not sufficiently engaged, consequently the body drops downward and puts pressure on the spine.  The head is bent back or forward – straining the neck.

Solution:

  • Engage the core and keep a strong line from the bottom of the legs right through the neck
  • Spread the weight evenly onto fingers and palms rather than the wrists only
  • If the pose is too difficult, do a plank against a wall first, following the same guidelines.

11. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

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Bridge pose is a great way to ease into a backward bend.  The pose is both restorative and strengthening for the upper legs, buttocks and the spine.  In addition, it opens the thoracic spine, the chest and the heart.  It also brings a fresh supply of blood to the pineal, pituitary and thyroid glands.

Common Mistakes:  Common mistakes in bridge pose can happen if the legs are not well aligned with the feet, putting pressure onto the knees.  The chest is not lifted sufficiently.  People with current neck or shoulder issues go beyond what is beneficial.

Solution:

  • keep legs are hip-width apart and well aligned with the rest of the body (use a block between the thighs to assist this)
  • lift gently from the chest to the hips as far as the neck and shoulders permit without pain
  • for beginners, keep hands next to the body rather than clasped behind the back
  • use a support below the hips if the pose is difficult

12. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

 

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Cobra pose is a gentle backbend that has many benefits, including stretching muscles in the shoulders, chest and abdominals, strengthening the spine, arms, shoulders and buttocks and increasing spinal flexibility.  It also invigorates the heart and tones abdominal organs.

Common Mistakes:  The hands extend beyond the shoulders, exerting pressure on the lower back.  In addition, going straight to high Cobra instead of low Cobra may affect people with lower back issues.  Often, Toes are tucked in instead of lying flat on the ground.

Solution:

  • Place hands right below the shoulders, with elbows parallel to the body
  • Toes, knees and hips remain on the floor
  • Hands gently press the boy upward initially to a low cobra and without putting pressure on the lower back.

13.  Upward Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana)

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Upward Facing Dog is a relatively challenging pose.  Nonetheless, it is a common element in Vinyasa (Yoga flow) sequences – for example, Sun Salutations.

Inherently, the pose has many benefits, such as stretching the front of the spine and strengthening the back of the spine.  In addition, it stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and abdomen.

Common Mistakes: Legs and knees remain on the ground and/or the arms collapse into the wrists.  As a result, the lower back overarches.

Solution:  

  • The arms are strong and long and the shoulder blades pull together
  • The knees and thighs lift off the floor
  • Feet press into the floor
  • People with sensitive backs are better off with a low Cobra pose (see Cobra pose above) and slowly experimenting with a high Cobra and then Upward Facing Dog pose.

14. Seated Twist (Marichyasana III)

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The Seated Twist improves the flexibility of the spine and boosts blood flow to the spinal disks.  At the same time, it strengthens the spine, as well as strengthens and tones internal organs by alternately compressing and stretching them.  In doing so, it stimulates digestion and elimination.

Common Mistake: The supporting hand is removed from the body and back is rounded.  In addition, the core may not be engaged properly.

Solution:

  • Sit as straight up as possible, with supporting hand placed right next to the hip of the bent leg
  • Engage the core and the extended leg and make sure the toes facing backwards
  • Which each breath, attempt to elongate the spine while gently twisting.

In Closing

Yoga, if done correctly, is extremely beneficial.  Therefore, it is definitely worth it to study the correct intention and alignment of each pose to achieve the maximum benefits.

If you want to find out more, check out our article  Why Does Yoga Feel So Good? 10 Great Reminders.

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