How To Modify Basic Yoga Poses – 5 Modification Techniques

If you are just starting your yoga practice and are worried about not being able to perform even the most basic yoga poses, it might be beneficial for you to modify the postures until your body is stronger and more used to the positions you are putting it in.

No one is an expert when they first start practicing and it takes most people months of practice before they are able to do basic yoga poses without modification. As long as you are moving into and feeling each pose, no matter how modified it is, overtime your muscles will begin to get stronger and loosen up which will allow you to start relieving your pain.

Modifying Basic Yoga Poses

The only way you are going to be able to heal your body from whatever it is that is causing you pain is to stick with a workout routine that works for you for the rest of your life. I have personally found that yoga is one of the most enjoyable experiences that I’ve ever encountered which allows me to consistently keep coming back to my mat day after day.

It doesn’t matter how slow you go in the beginning, or how much you modify each pose or routine, it only matters that you stick with it overtime and the rest will work itself out.

Remembering the following modification techniques are available if you need them will allow you to master the basic yoga poses and start to heal your body with your practice.

1. Use Blocks And Straps

Many folding balance postures can be difficult if you are not flexible enough to support yourself on the ground or your core is not yet strong enough to support your weight.

Placing a block underneath of you in postures like Bridge Pose or Half Moon can add extra support as well as allow you to open space in your body instead of falling forward or down. Using a strap when you are practicing binds is also going to give you more space to open your body up with.

Modify basic yoga poses.
Use a block to modify basic yoga poses.

2. Bend Your Knees

There are a lot of postures in yoga that are going to require you to stretch your hamstrings and lower back. If either of those areas are tight or cause you pain then it might be necessary for you to bend your knees when in poses like Downward Dog or any forward fold.

Slightly bending your knees will allow you to ease your body into the pose and get a good stretch without straining your muscles.

3. Place Your Knees On The Ground

Placing a knee on the ground while in any type of lunge will allow you to get deeper in the pose instead of worrying about falling over or not being able to straighten your back leg. 

Lunging postures such as Crescent Pose are great for stretching your entire body so if you need to place a knee down in order to feel your full extension, then do it!

Dropping a knee and allowing the rest of your body to stretch out is going to heal your body faster than trying to force yourself into a pose. Many lunging poses also have a twisting variation so use a block whenever you need.

4. Skip Chaturunga Dandasana And Upward Dog

One of the most basic yoga poses is Chatarunga Dandasana into Upward Dog which is lowering your body halfway down while in a plank position and then raising your chest and head up to the sky while straightening your arms.

If you have a shoulder injury or low back pain then skipping this sequence entirely and moving from Plank into Downward Dog is always an option. If you still want to do a back bend then you can modify Upward Dog with Low Cobra which takes pressure off of your shoulders.

5. Rest In Child’s Pose

I think Child’s Pose is the most important modification that anyone can make in their practice. Yoga is called a practice because you are doing just that, practicing.

Any time you feel like you are pushing yourself to hard or need a break, resting in Child’s Pose until your catch your breath is a great way to recover. Once you are ready to continue then you can pick back up where you left off.

Slow Down Your Practice

Slow Down
Take it slow and you will find relief.

There are so many companies and products advertising fast results because we have become a society that moves faster than we are able to keep up with. Finding time to workout in the midst of everything else you have to do in your day can seem impossible but ignoring the pain and just hoping that it will go away will cause you more and more pain the older you get.

Reminding yourself that you are the only person in control of your health will not only push you to always come back to your mat but also let you take your practice at a pace that motivates you to stick with it. Modifying your practice to what suits you best will give you the strength and confidence you need in order work out the aches and pains that have built up in your body.

Committing yourself to a regular yoga practice is the best way to train your body and start getting rid of the pain. Even if you only practice a few times a week, each time you practice will add up to something great.

As you advance in your practice it might be necessary to hold or go deeper into a pose when your body is begging you to come out of it in order to get stronger but if you are just starting out then take it easy. Your body isn’t going to magically be free from the pain after one or two sessions. Yoga is a lifelong commitment to your body and your health so check your ego at the door and just let yourself feel whatever your body wants to feel, no more, no less.

What is a modification technique that works for you in your workouts?

Stick With It!

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  1. Desiree

    There’s a lot of good info here. I just started doing yoga again after having two kids and it is amazing how much harder it is for me than it used to be. I’ve definitely had to modify my poses, but it’s great to see what I can do. Especially the chataranga to upward dog and then downward dog. My lower back isn’t so great anymore. Thank you for the great info!

    1. yoga (Post author)

      Hi Desiree!
      It’s great that you are getting back into yoga! I’m sure your body is thanking you after having two kids and the stress that can put on your body. Thanks for the comment!

  2. wunderkindonsulting

    I really love how understanding and encouraging your approach to Yoga is, especially for a beginner. I foolishly went to Hot Yoga for my first time every participating in a Yoga Class. I haven’t been back since as the class definitely gave an heir of “Yoga Snob”. Rather than encouraging me and understanding that it was my first time, the instructor asked me to leave because I had to keep exiting the room so that I didn’t faint. While I get the disturbance to other participants, I just didn’t get a general spirit of acceptance, unlike your article. Thanks for posting!

    1. yoga (Post author)

      I’m so sorry to hear how you were treated at that yoga studio! Since yoga has started to become so popular so fast it unfortunately has also brought in a lot of people that forget the true nature of what yoga represents, one being that yoga is a community that all should be accepted in, no matter the level of experience.

      I really hope that you give yoga another try! The physical and mental benefits are so great and can be done anywhere, even on your own at home. I personally enjoy the days when it is just me and my mat practicing and I’m not surrounded by a class of other people. It’s also a great place to start because you can learn all of the basics and go at a pace that works for you. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Mohd Azeezy

    I’m also a fans of yoga. I have friend that do yoga to. I once told to teach me yoga. She ask me to do one of the yoga pose, which is the Bridge Pose. As every first timer, I can’t even lift my back upwards like a proper bridge! Hahaha.. Anyway, I have a couple question for you:

    1) Is it true that man tend to find doing harder than woman? I heard that man’s bone is harder than woman

    2) Can yoga actually make you taller? I like yoga just because I want to be taller, as I am a short person..

    1. yoga (Post author)

      Bridge can be a very difficult pose for someone who has never done yoga before so you shouldn’t feel bad at all! 🙂

      I truly feel that both men and women have the ability to practice yoga at the same level. It might be a little more difficult for men to work out their tight muscles but what makes someone flexible in yoga isn’t their bone it’s their muscles, ligaments, joints, cartilage, internal organs, and how hard each person is willing to work at it.

      Yoga can in fact make you taller! Unfortunately it’s not going to add a ton of height but it will decompress the joints in your spine and strengthen your back muscles which will give you better posture. Those two things combined will give you the appearance of being and actually feeling taller.

  4. Heathguy33

    Very marvelous website here it’s slam packed full of information. I was never really into yoga but then I got married and that all changed. I know a little bit about it but not much. These tips helped a lot number 4 really made me scratch my head with the title but after reading it I got the visual and knew what you were talking about. Thank you for the wonderful post I will share it on Facebook.

    1. yoga (Post author)

      Hi, I’m glad you found the site informational!
      The exercises in number 4 is one of the first things you will learn in a Vinyasa yoga class but can be difficult for those just starting a yoga practice, especially if they have lower back pain. Since this sequence requires a slight backbend it’s very important to take it slow and modify when needed.
      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Amber

    I love Yoga but I have to say I need to battle my ego some days! My ego wants to do everything, just as it is instructed, and if there is an option to go deeper, I usually will.
    Some days I have to just stop of take a modification. I always grab a set of blocks at the beginning of class so they are easily accessible if I need them.
    Yesterday my instructor was actually telling the class about the difference between being “uncomfortable” and being in”pain” She said that if the feeling ebs and flows with breathing this is being uncomfortable and it is best to stay in the posture and breath through it. However, if the feeling stays the same throughout breathing, this is pain and you should slowly come out of the posture and find a suitable modification.

    1. yoga (Post author)

      Hi Amber!

      I catch myself trying to keep up or go further than others in class sometimes and always have to remind myself that everyone is at a different point in their yoga journey. As long as you’re pushing yourself to your edge and noticing the difference between pain and discomfort in your body you’ll continue to grow and advance in your practice. Breathing through discomfort is a great way to push past your edge but always listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right, there’s always some way to modify the pose. Modifying your practice will only allow you to grow in your practice.

      Thanks for the comment!


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