5 Yoga Modifications You’ve Probably Never Seen for Popular Yoga Poses

5 Yoga Modifications You’ve Probably Never Seen for Popular Yoga Poses

Will

Posted on Jan 11, 2022

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Not being able to do a yoga pose that everyone in the world can seemingly do except you is frustrating and can really discourage new and beginning yogis from continuing their practice.

Here at MyYogaTeacher, we’re adamant that yoga is for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you won’t come across poses you simply can’t do.

Maybe you haven’t built up the strength and flexibility to do them yet or maybe you have an injury or illness that prevents you from doing them.

Either way, there’s a modification for that!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with performing a modified yoga pose! Yoga isn’t about comparing yourself to others. It’s about becoming, evolving, growing into your very best self.

Yoga is a practice of you competing with you.

Our private yoga instructors are all about giving yogis individualized attention, focused instruction, and modified poses that keep yogis coming back for more every week. MyYogaTeacher yoga teachers are highly experienced, expert yoga instructors who offer 1-on-1 yoga classes for people just like you!

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In the meantime, check out these yoga pose modifications you may not have heard of!

Seated Cat-Cow

(photo Jenny Clise)

1. Seated cat-cow

How it helps:

  • Reduces strain on wrists and hands.
  • The contact of your pelvic region on the floor or bolster helps spinal movement start from the base of the spine and move up.

  • Reduces pressure on the knees by elevating the hips

How you do it:

  1. Begin in a seated cross-legged position. If you sense that your lower back is rounding or tightness in your hips, you may sit on the edge of a folded blanket or bolster so that your hips are higher than your knees. 
  2. Interlace or clasp your hands in front of you. 
  3. Inhale and reach towards the ceiling or sky. Press through the palms of your hands, and gently arch your back. 
  4. Round your spine gently and bring your arms down on the exhale.
  5. Repeat cycle for 1-2 minutes.
Kneeling Side Angle Pose


2. Side angle pose while kneeling

How it helps:

  • Kneeling helps yogis balance better by providing more stability

  • Grabbing the ankle helps yogis either push down and open up the chest more or pull up and create more space between the lower ribs and hip crease, which improves equal torso lengthening.

How you do it:

  1. Sit on your knees and bring your right foot flat on the mat or floor. 
  2. Bend your right knee until it is aligned directly above your right ankle. 
  3. Your shin should be perpendicular to the mat. 
  4. Gently place your right elbow on your right thigh and twist left, creating a lateral stretch with your torso.
  5. Lift your left arm out and up so that your chest opens up and ribs lift up and away from the hip crease.
  6. Hold for 5-10 breaths and repeat on other side.

Modifications of this modification: 

You may place your arm in front of your right thigh and press your thigh outward or you may place your right arm on the outside of your right thigh and use muscle strength to press your outer right knee into your arm.

Modified Tree Pose

3. Tree pose with a block

How it helps:

  • Reduces amount of flexion in knees for those with knee issues.
  • Promotes equal weight distribution for those who need help with balance.

  • Minimizes the risk of falling

How to do it:

  1. From Mountain Pose, place a block on the setting that is comfortable for you and set it just a bit in front of your right foot. 

  2. Shift the majority of your weight into your left foot. 

  3. Place your right foot on the block. 

  4. Tuck your tailbone in and length down toward your left heel. 

  5. Be aware of your posture. Shoulder blades should be drawn in and down your back. 

  6. Focus your eyes and attention on one focal point to help with balance. 

  7. Stay for 5-10 breaths and repeat on other side.

Supported Bow Pose

4. Supported wheel pose

 How it helps:

  • Helps yogis reach for their ankles a bit easier

  • Reduces weight bearing in the midsection, which can be uncomfortable

  • Raises your hips and reduces the potential for back strain

  • Keeps knees and thighs grounded, reducing the potential of pinching in lower back

How to do it:

  1. Begin in tabletop position with a bolster or folded blanket on the floor, just behind your wrists. 

  2. Lower the front of your hips down onto your chosen support item and lift your chest up. 

  3. Engage your hamstrings and start to bend your knees. 

  4. Reach your arms back, hands reaching towards ankles. 

  5. If you’re able to reach your ankles, do so and press your thighs down into the mat or floor and lift up through the chest. 

  6. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.

Modified Chair Pose Variation

5. Two chair pose modifications

How it helps:

  • Reduces strain on lower back

  • Promotes improved balance with better weight distribution

  • Supports core engagement

  • Helps stop the rounding of the spine and encourages better spinal rotation

How to do it:

  1. Place a block at its lowest level between both feet. Allow the inner edge of the foot to touch the block. 

  2. Place another block on its tallest setting six inches in front of your and slightly to the right. 

  3. With your knees staying directly above your ankles and keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor, bend your knees as far as is comfortable on an inhale, but not into a yoga squat. 

  4. As you exhale, start to twist your torso and reach for the block with your left hand or fingertips. 

  5. Place your right hand on your lower back or hips. It is ok to bend the opposite knee of the direction you’re twisting if you need to!

There are lots of unique yoga pose modifications for people of all ages and fitness levels. If you’re uncomfortable with a yoga pose or don’t have the strength or flexibility to practice it while also maintaining proper alignment, we encourage you to modify the pose until you’re able to do the full version.

Need some help learning different modifications for various yoga poses?

We invite you to check out MyYogaTeacher’s 1:1 classes with your 2-week free trial here! 

With MYT’s 1:1 Membership Plans, you get private, personalized sessions with your favorite yoga teachers, unlimited group classes (over 35 different ones), and recordings of your 1:1 sessions and group classes! 

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