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If your hamstrings or shoulders are tight …
Try placing your hands on blocks instead of bringing your palms together behind your back. Position the blocks on either side of your front foot at a height that will allow you to straighten both legs. Engage the quadriceps in your front leg, which will enable a gentle release of your hamstrings. (When a muscle group on one side of your body contracts, muscles on the opposite side release, so using your quadriceps will facilitate lengthening in your hamstrings.) Continue to work to keep the two sides of your torso equally long. Use inhalations to lengthen your front body and exhalations to lengthen your back body.
See also Poses for Your Shoulders
If you hyperextend your knees or experience knee pain …
Try placing a block at a diagonal behind your front calf. Start with the block upright on your mat, about 6 inches behind your front foot, short side down. Then, tip it forward on a diagonal, so that the other end presses against the middle of your calf. Often, people who hyperextend their knees can’t figure out how to engage their quadriceps without their knees locking. In this modification, the block acts as a brake, inhibiting the hyperextension of your knees as you activate your quadriceps under new circumstances.
If you feel strain in your front leg or feel unstable …
Try bringing more vitality into your back leg by practicing with your back heel at the wall with your foot at a 45-degree angle. Because your torso will be extended over your front leg, there may be a tendency to settle the weight of the pose into your front leg, creating an energetic asymmetry. Instead, embed your heel into the wall by vigorously pressing your back femur (thigh bone) backward. Feel how having something to press against engages your back leg muscles and balances the effort of the pose.
Tadasana can serve as a template for all other postures. If you can understand and embody its essential principles of sthira (stability) and sukha (spaciousness) and find and cultivate these qualities throughout your practice, the possibilities will be truly limitless. It’s especially powerful to apply Tadasana principles in so-called advanced postures, where the temptation can be to abandon the very alignment that is so crucial to success. In these moments, returning to Tadasana alignment can help you find the balance between sthira and sukha, which is the goal of every pose. The dynamic combination of steadiness and openness that you experience in an aligned Tadasana can be applied off the mat as well. It can teach you to be alert and have clear boundaries while remaining open and responsive to others.
See also 3 Ways to Modify Paschimottanasana
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.