Yeah, yoga may seem all zen and flowy, with the oms and the deep breaths and whatnot, but #realtalk? It's seriously hard -- which is why you're bound to make a couple mistakes here and there (and we're not just talking about these 7 biggest mistakes you can make in yoga class!). But don't sweat it! To help you reach pro status, we checked in with Sarah Vaynerman, a certified yoga instructor in New York City and founder of the private yoga for professionals service workfromom.com, to see the top poses she sees people perform incorrectly again and again.
Check these out before your next class, and you won't have to be "corrected" at all -- promise!
1. The Shoulder Stand
What you're supposed to do: This is the pose that looks like you're lying down with your legs stacked up against an imaginary wall. To get into it, Vaynerman says you should lie flat on your back and stretch your legs up toward the ceiling so your feet are directly over your hips, placing your hands on your lower back for support. Then, simply hold still.
The mistake you're probably making: Though this pose seems easy in theory -- how hard can it be to tilt your legs up to the sky?! -- Vaynerman explains that most people do it wrong. "What happens is that people think they're supposed to just get up on their shoulders, and then it doesn't matter what the rest of their body is doing. So they do that, but then everything else turns out crooked--their backs end up curled and their legs end up behind them," she explains. In other words, it's a mess!
The fix: Be sure your entire body is stacked in a straight line -- i.e. your ankles are right over your knees, which are right over your hips, which are right over your shoulders. "A good way to be sure you're stacked correctly is to clench and harden your abs, which will keep you more steady," Vaynerman advises. And be sure to keep your head flat on the ground facing up--no peeking around to see if you're doing it right! Moving your head from side to side can be seriously bad for your neck.
2. The Chaturanga
What you're supposed to do: Think of this pose as a halfway pushup. Basically, it's where you start in a plank position, Vaynerman says, but then you lower yourself halfway into a pushup position, so you're really working your core.
The mistake you're probably making: It requires a ton of strength to stay in this position, so most people end up basically just plopping to the floor--or almost plopping to the floor. "The common mistake here is that people let their hips drop because it's easier. But that puts a huge strain on your lower back, and it also means that you're not working your core as much, which is one of the main purposes of this move," Vaynerman says.
The fix: Concentrate on keeping your elbows tucked in by your ribs at a right angle, and keeping your shoulders down--not by your ears. "Both of those tricks will help you keep your hips up and your core engaged, so you don't collapse into a heap on the floor," she explains.
3. The Camel Pose
What you're supposed to do: "Kneel on your knees hips-width apart. Then, inhale and gently tilt your head and body backward, and bring your hands back and place them on your heels so your thumbs are on the outside of your foot. Finally, press your hips forward," Vaynerman explains.
The mistake you're probably making: "When most people try to start bending backward, they move their hips first--it's an instinctual thing--and they end up collapsing back," Vaynerman says.
The fix: Rather than leading with your hips -- which you should really never, ever do -- you're supposed to lift your chest up toward the ceiling first, Vaynerman advises. "Doing so will ensure that you stretch your entire spinal column, because you're starting from the top and working your way down," she says.