Most of us can recall a time when we’ve tried to contort our bodies into a yoga pose. Sometimes it is good to be playful and challenge ourselves. Many times, it can put us at risk for injury and prevent us from receiving the full benefits of the pose. The good news is that with some tweaks and tools, there usually is a version of the pose that works for every body.
It is important to let go of our notions of how poses are supposed to look and think about what benefits they can offer—flexibility, strength, balance, focus, relaxation or a combination of these. What do you want from your practice? This might even vary on given days. The truth is that there are many variations of common yoga poses. The trick is to choose the variation that best meets our intentions and abilities in the moment.
We gain the most benefit when we understand how to tailor poses to best fit our abilities, body types, and intentions rather than trying to make our bodies fit the shape of a pose.
For example, ardha chandrasana or half moon is a challenging pose that requires strength and stability for even the most experienced yoga practitioner. For that reason, it might not even be offered in some classes. Here are three variations that make this pose accessible to most people. Even if you practice half moon in the typical form, performing the pose using one of these variations could allow you to more fully experience its benefits.
Chair version 1—Place your lower hand on the seat of a firm chair. Your upper hand rests on the backrest of the chair. By decreasing the balance requirements, a student can focus more specifically on strengthening the legs, particularly the outer hip of the raised leg. In addition, the upper arm can assist to open more fully in the trunk.
Chair version 2—Place your lower hand on the seat of a firm chair. Lift your upper arm toward the sky. This variation is similar to chair variation 1 but adds a challenge to your balance but not as much as if you didn’t have the chair for support.
Wall variation—Use a chair or blocks under your lower hand with your back against a wall. The wall provides support and confidence to deeply experience the pose.
Chair version 1
Chair version 2