7 Yoga Poses You’re Doing Wrong

By Iro Kotsimbos
10th Jul 2014

We've all heard about the benefits of yoga – it's strengthening, great for flexibility, helps to improve your posture, aids stress relief…the list goes on!

You may feel like you've got this yoga thing down pat, but what if you're not executing the moves correctly, and inadvertently doing more harm than good?

We spoke with 7 of Melbourne's best yoga studios about the most common yoga mistakes, along with their tips on how you can avoid them.

These yoga pros know their stuff, so get ready to kiss bad technique goodbye!


The Expert | Emma from Yoga Flame - This thriving Moonee Ponds yoga studio offers around 40 classes per week, including Hot, Flow and Yin. With expert staff, a relaxed vibe, and top quality equipment, it's no wonder Yoga Flame is considered to be one of Melbourne's best yoga studios.

The Mistake | "The main mistake I see is to do with the placement of the hands, arms and shoulders. If these are placed in the wrong area then you'll definitely feel it."

Why It's Bad | "Incorrect placement will collapse the chest, cause rounding through the upper back, and place strain on the wrists and shoulders."

How You Can Tell | "You'll most likely feel compressed and crowded in the shoulders and neck, the wrists may hurt and you won't really feel 'strong' in the pose. Notice if the neck and shoulders feel spacious (correct) or contracted (incorrect). I highly recommend getting someone to take a photo of you from the front to see how you are doing – a picture tells a thousand words! This is a technique I use with all of my private clients – it is amazing to see the 'light bulb' moment."

How To Fix It | "Place your hands shoulder distance apart, checking the creases of the wrists are parallel to the front of your mat. Spread your fingers wide and press through the base of the thumb and index finger feeling the forearms rotating slightly inwards. Take the pressure out of the wrists by shifting the weight slightly forward to the base of the fingers. Rotate the upper arms away from your centre to stabilise the shoulders and create space for the neck, then activate strongly through your thighs by pressing back to find full extension of the spine. Draw your shoulders down your back and keep your ears in line with your upper arms to keep the neck correctly aligned – if you find your upper back is still rounding, bend the knees a little."


The Expert | Casey from One Hot Yoga - An oasis of calm in the heart of bustling South Yarra, One Hot Yoga is one of the best yoga studios this side of Melbourne. The studio is warmed to 37 degrees (your core body temperature) to allow maximum benefit without added stress to the body.

The Mistake | "Many yogis think plank requires upper body strength, however plank pose is all about core activation. Common mistakes include sticking your tush way up in the air or allowing the hips to sag close to the ground." 

Why It's Bad | "Strengthening and endurance benefits decrease when hips are too high. In addition, unnecessary stress is added to the low back when hips are too low."

How You Can Tell | "Make sure you look at the entire line of your body. You want a straight line from the top of the head to the heels, one that is completely parallel to the floor."

How To Fix It | "Core activation is key here. Draw your lower ribs and navel in, and reach your tailbone towards your heels. Imagine your inner thighs hugging together, all the way up toward your pubic bone. Keeping all that engaged, extend your heart forward and slide your shoulder blades down your back like a mini cobra action (remember to keep your lower ribs and navel in drawn in and engaged). From there, reach the crown of the head forward and press the heels of your feet back."


The Expert | Michelle Jayne from Kaya Health Clubs - People of all ages and fitness levels are welcome at Kaya Health Clubs, Melbourne's first mind and body health club. While Kaya are known for their brilliant yoga offering, there's also other plenty of other classes and seminars you can attend.

The Mistake | "The main mistake made in cobra pose is to do with the spine, arms and shoulders. You've just made it through Chaturanga and whoosh into cobra, only to lock your elbows, push the hands down too strongly, compress your lower back and lose effectiveness from your core."

Why It's Bad | "The thoracic spine (the upper-middle back where the ribs are attached) is the least mobile part of our spine, so compressing deeply into the lumbar spine (the lower back, between the rib cage and the pelvis) means you're not engaging your core and thighs properly. In addition, it doesn't give the thoracic spine an opportunity to fully extend forward."

How You Can Tell | "Signs include too much pressure on your lower back along with not feeling your core being fully engaged."

How To Fix It | "Lower your body all the way to the floor and keep your hands positioned towards the middle ribs so you won't be tempted to use them as much. Press the tops of your feet down and firm up your legs. Feel your belly begin to move towards your spine, and then draw the ribs forward and up, using mainly your back strength (you should be able to almost lift your hands off the floor). Draw your inner and outer shoulders back, and then feel your shoulder blades slide down and almost press into the backs of the ribs."


The Expert | Jolene from KX Yoga - Ever needed a little bit of help during your vinyasa yoga class? KX Yoga understands. They offer not one, but two teachers in each each – one to instruct, and one to assist you in achieving the perfect pose.

The Mistake | "One of the most common errors we see are students locking their legs straight and slouching their spine to reach their toes."

Why It's Bad | "Slouching results in a C shape and this poor posture stresses the ligament tension in the spine, hip and knee joints."

How You Can Tell | "Giveaways include a rounded spine or C shape of the spine, tension around the shoulders, and shortness of breath."

How To Fix It | "Keep the bend through your knees and come into your forward fold, making sure you press your belly to your thighs. Inhale to lengthen the spine, and when you exhale, start to straighten your legs. As soon as your belly starts to pull away from your legs is when you need to stop straightening your legs."


The Expert | Sammy and Kara from Yoga 213 - Combining hip hop and yoga might seem like a strange combo, but the crew at Yoga 213 have proved otherwise! Set to the likes of Snoop Dogg, Frank Ocean and Jurassic 5, the Hip Hop and Chill classes at Yoga 213 are seriously addictive! Definitely one of Melbourne's best yoga studios.

The Mistake | "Some common misalignments with this pose are the back foot not being flat on the ground, the core not being engaged, and compression of the lower back." 

Why It's Bad | "You never want to put stress on the body with any pose – yoga is meant to make you feel good! Ensure your core is engaged and you are not putting any pressure on your lower back by peeling your shoulders away from your ears. This will help prevent any tension in the neck and shoulders."

How You Can Tell | "If the pose isn't making your feel good and you feel any compression or pain, then you may be out of alignment. If you feel like you are doing it 'wrong' then ask your teacher for some alignment cues."

How To Fix It | "Firstly, shorten your stance to gain stability. To gain correct alignment, you can bring your hands to prayer, which will relax the shoulders. Bring your back hip forward and your front hip back to align the hips and tuck the tailbone."


The Expert | Emma from Barre Body - A combination of yoga, pilates and ballet barre, the classes at Barre Body will have you well on your way to achieving a lean, strong and toned physique. There are four Barre Body studios across Melbourne, making it easy for you to drop in for a class.

The Mistake | "When moving into the posture, or holding the posture, if the bent knee moves beyond the ankle then you're doing it wrong."

Why It's Bad | "Moving the knee past the ankle puts additional pressure on the knee joint. It's also a potential injury risk."

How You Can Tell | "You can easily see if you are doing this incorrectly by using a mirror to check your form and position. Feeling too much pressure in your knee joint is also a giveaway."

How To Fix It | "To protect the knee and avoid making this mistake, ensure that when you are in the posture, your bent knee is directly in line (above) the ankle."


The Expert | Shannon and Tyneal from Grass Roots Yoga - If hot yoga is your thing, then you'll love the classes at Grass Roots Yoga! If it's not, there's also vinyasa flow, slow flow and yin yoga classes available, along with an in-house remedial massage therapist and a nutritionist, helping to deliver a complete body & mind experience.

The Mistake | "Definitely putting your foot on your knee – mistake #1!"

Why It's Bad | "The knee isn't a bone or a joint – it's cartilage, and therefore it won't support lateral (side-to-side) flexion. Ask anyone who has had a knee injury; it's a long way back to a full recovery. They say, 'you can mess with the gods, but you can't mess with the knees!'"

How You Can Tell | "Simply put, you will see the foot flat across the knee. You may even feel an instability, or slight pain if the foot presses too hard side-to-side."

How To Fix It | "Usually the main reason someone could not bring the foot above the knee on the inner thigh is owing to hip flexor tightness or general lack of strength to hold the leg up and apply enough pressure to keep the foot flat. If this is the case, then we recommend placing the foot on the calf muscle below the knee, and if this is still too strong, then the ball of the foot on the floor with the heel on the ankle."

Image Credit: Harper's Bazaar and Vogue Italia

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