Some Lesser Known Tips for Yoga

New to yoga and don’t know where to start or what to do?  I remember that day as if it was yesterday.  We have all been there before and that competitive edge screams at us to be great at it our first day.  Great news is.  You can remove that competitive edge because yoga isn’t about that. You should know that yoga is an ancient art that has been practiced all over the world for centuries, yet it has only recently gained popularity in North America only over the last 10 years.  Because this country is more oriented around workouts that maximize caloric burn and give you six pack abs, many people didn’t even consider yoga for their goals and as a result, was considered more a meditation thing that only served specific populations.

Well, that isn’t so.  While there are many different styles of yoga, there is one to fit that inner athlete in us all.  This type of yoga is called power yoga or Vinyasa yoga or power Vinyasa yoga, depending on which studio you attend.  Since this is the type of yoga I practice, I will discuss some lesser known tips that aspiring yogis might want to know.   More specifically, as it relates to protecting your joints from pain and wrong movement patterns, you must know and embody these 3 basic concepts.

Tip #1: Your breath:

With every pose in yoga, it’s easy to hold your breath which will only build stress up in your body rather than allow your body to cleanse and get strong.  So first and foremost, you must focus on your breath from the beginning of your practice and allow this steady meaningful pranayama breathing sustain you throughout your practice no matter how hard the postures get.  What is pranayama breathing? It’s the extension of life force, and learning to not control or force the breath but to allow it to be the body’s vital energy and force, no matter how difficult the practice might be.  A great summary of knowing how to tangibly begin how to breath correctly is to inhale through the knows for 4 counts and slowly release the breath for 4 counts.  Full breath in, complete breath out.  Calm, and steady, no force.


Tip #2: Always think bone on bone alignment.  Every single posture requires strength and the only way to build strength in the body, without compromising joint integrity, is to practice with mindfulness.  Avoid simply rushing through the postures.  Take your time with them.  Focus on the breat connectingposture through the power of your breath.  When you get into each individual posture, align your body up correctly so that you can build the most optimal amount of strength.  Here are a few key poses where this applies to show you examples of bone on bone alignment:


Starting on your hands and knees in a table top position.  Stack your shoulders directly on top of your wrists.  Keep your hips squared to the ground.  Draw your shoulders down your back and pull your navel in towards the spine.  Once your core is bracing, then lift onto your toes and do not shift your emphasis away from squeezing your core and shoulders.

What to look out for which is wrong:

Most people will begin to arch their lower back, bend their knees slightly and draw their chest back which will take your shoulders away from your wrists decreasing the stability and strength in your upper extremity in the pose.







This is a tricep pushup position, however, the elbows are glued to the side body and your shoulders are in a neutral position as you lower to a 90 degree angle in the elbows.  Keep your core engaged so that your lower back is protected.  (see in the video how I am gluing my elbows to my side body? By the way, special thank you to my photographer Ron who only shot video for this photo vs. took an actual photo! Love ya man!)


What to look out for which is wrong: 

Arching of the lower back and flaring your elbows out to the side.  That will put a lot of stress on the shoulder girdle and not give you the appropriate strength to guide you through the pose.  This pose is crucial to get right so that other postures such as crow are possible because of infinite strength gains made by doing it correctly.






Upward facing dog:

This pose is followed by your chataranga, and when done correctly, you are bringing yourself into a safe mini back-bend.  Your shoulders stack directly on top of the wrists, while you drive your shoulders down and away from your ears, activating your lower trapezius and lat muscles.  Your thighs are lifted off the ground and you are balancing on the entire hands along with the tops of the feet.





What to look out for which is wrong:

Your shoulders shrugging up towards your ears, your thighs should not touch the ground.  Be careful not to overarch your lower back.  Be mindful of each end position in the pose to find the full expression.







Crescent lunge:

Any time you do any lunge, you must have your knees in alignment with your ankles.  Many times people’s knees hurt simply because of alignment issues.  So, with one foot forward and one foot back, standing hip distance apart, bend both knees at a 90 degree angle and keep your “trunk” perpendicular to the ground.  Your core should be tightly held and your weight should be equally distributed between your front and back feet.  Once your body is in alignment, you may reach your arms overhead, keeping your shoulders relaxed and palms facing inward.



What to look out for which is wrong:

Make sure your front knee is over the ankle and you can see your 5 front toes (see how far forward that front knee is in the photo?  Bad bad bad!).  If you can’t see your toes, then simply shift your weight back so that you naturally track the knee over the toes.  Also, draw your belly in tight to avoid hyperextension in the lower back or sway back.  Keep your shoulders relaxed because many times people elevate their shoulders just to maintain the arm position.  You can completely see the difference in the upper body between photos.




Tip #3: Let go of any expectations of your practice.  This is easier said than done.  It took me 5 years to understand this concept.  As an athlete, I am always looking to improve at everything I do.  I am competitive and wanna be the girl that does a hand stand in between every chataranga, however, in yoga, it is all about honoring the place you are in for that day, every time.  For example, your practice might contain more strength at 9am on a Monday vs. 12pm on a Friday.  Either way, yoga is all about honoring your physical being today and uniting it with your higher source every day.  Yoga is all about letting go of all physical and emotional stress so that you can free up space for new potential.  One can learn this easily by simply following tip #1, which is mastering the power of your breath during practice.  If you can focus on proper breathing, and incorporate it into the flow of your practice, then you will easily let go of any judgments you hold about your practice.  You will instead find yourself building up your consciousness as you flow through the poses with grace and sweet surrender.

And so, these are the top 3 tips I wish to share now.  If you are new to yoga and are fearful of it, then read tip #3 again.  There are zero expectations, no judgments and no such thing as failing at your practice.  Just step onto your mat today and be where you are.  In time, you will evolve and you will also notice that your life off the mat will evolve  as a result, too.  Feel free to leave comments below, or message me a question on Facebook HERE.  Namaste! (the light and teacher in me shines and honors the light and teacher in you!  Namaste is what you repeat after your teacher when (s)he closes the practice after shavasana!)

Photo Credits and Location: Ron Smith (thanks man).

This article was inspired by who offers online education for beginners looking to evolve in Microsoft training and other technical platforms.  You know me, and if you don’t you will learn, that life is one big lesson plan.  Always look to evolve and learn and you will always be ahead and fulfilled.  Let me close with this; the biggest leaders in the world have a taste for education.  Do you consider yourself a leader? Namaste!