These simple cues can help improve many yoga poses, make a mental checklist of them and use them to enhance and grow your practice at home and in class.
1. Find a strong foundation. Press down into the floor through your feet, hands or sitting bones (depending on the pose) and feel yourself growing roots like a tree, feeling connected, secure and stable. A good foundation will help make you feel safer and stronger in almost any pose.
2. Find length in your spine. Extend up through the crown of the head and down through the tailbone to gain length, space and fluidity in the spine. This should help you feel lighter, more buoyant and give you the space to reach into your chosen pose more deeply.
3. Roll your shoulders away from your ears. Sometimes we can get so intent on 'getting a pose' that we actually add stress to the body in our effort to get there- one of the first places this shows is in the shoulders. Once you're in a pose have a look at where your shoulders are and allow them to release away from the ears- shoulder blades moving towards each other across the back.
4. Unclench the jaw. Same goes for the jaw- one of the first places to show stress in the body, once your in your pose conciously unclench the jaw leaving a little space between the teeth to help relax the facial muscles- turn the corners of the mouth up and smile!
5. Ribcage in, tailbone lengthens. In some poses we find that our ribcage flares forward and our butt sticks out creating a curve in the lower back which can cause aches and pains in this area if . Instead imagine that you are knitting the ribs together- drawing them in and lenthen down through the tailbone so the butt is not sticking out and the ribcage is inline.
6. Draw up the kneecaps and firm and strengthen the thigh muscles. Use this cue to protect your knees and avoid hyper-extending the knee joint in standing poses like triconasana- triangle pose. Engaging these muscles will also help all of the leg muscles to work together as a team to keep you stable and safe.
7. Observe and adjust to suit your body today. Our bodies feel different every day, every yoga practice. Never expect a pose to feel exactly as it did the day before. Observe your body and take adjustments that you need. Use your props, a block, a strap, a blanket. Rather than an admission of defeat, props can allow you to find better alignment in your body and find the space you need to get the most from each pose.