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Ditch These Common Yoga Cues, ASAP

Your teacher might use these cues all the time—and they could be causing a lot of harm.

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“I travel around the world teaching and have noticed there are a number of commonly taught principles in yoga classes that are just not based in anatomical reality,” says Lasater, author of Yoga Myths: What You Need to Learn and Unlearn for a Safe and Healthy Yoga Practice. “They’re not helping anyone and, worse, could be causing a lot of harm.” Here are Lasater’s picks for two cues to ditch.

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David Martinez

“Tuck your tailbone in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)” 

Doing so distorts the natural curve in your lower spine and destabilizes the sacroiliac (SI) joint between your sacrum and your ilia (the pair of large bones of the pelvis), which can cause low back pain. You’ll likely compensate by over lifting your breastbone, which flattens your thoracic curve—which is too much for a neutral standing position.

Do this instead: Find a doorway and stand with your back against one of the corners. With your feet parallel to each other and a little wider than hip-width, place your tailbone, mid-thoracic spine, and the back of your head against the slightly sharp edge of the wall. Make sure your chin is parallel to the floor, and stand here for a few breaths, noticing how free your breathing feels. The diaphragm is connected to the L1 vertebra, so when you keep the lumbar spine in this natural curve, you can breathe more freely.To feel the normal scapular movement, reach up as though grabbing something high on a shelf.

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David Martinez

“Drop your shoulders down your back as you reach your arms skyward”

To understand the shoulder joint, you need to get to know your scapula, which is the key to how we move the entire upper extremity. Try this: While standing, without interfering with the natural movement of your scapula, slowly abduct one of your arms out to your side. Notice that your scapula doesn’t move very much at the beginning of the movement, but as you continue to move your arm skyward, you’ll immediately feel your scapula elevate and rotate. This rotation and elevation is a normal part of flexion and helps prevent injury.

Do this instead: As you raise your arms above your head, imagine you are reaching for something you want that’s on a high shelf. Really stretch up without thinking about your movement. You’ll notice the outside, or lateral border, of your scapula, moves up. As it does, feel how much freedom you have to move in your shoulder joint.