Your Body, Your Practice: 4 Modifications From Briohny Smyth

Your yoga practice is yours. Play with these modifications to honor your body, wherever it’s at.

Practice alongside Briohny right at home on Wanderlust TV. 

Part of building a yoga practice is building one that fits with your body. Every body is able to explore asana—regardless of strength, size, flexibility, skill level, or injury history. Excuses, however, can stretch to the moon and back: I’m not strong enough, I can’t touch my toes, I’ve never practiced before. But trust us when we say—with conviction—yoga is for everyone.

The crucial element in one’s yoga practice means honoring your body and practice. That means knowing what’s best for you in the moment. Our bodies are beautiful, forever-fluctuating organisms—what feels good one day might feel great the next. And that’s more than OK! If you’re tuning into your movements and listening to your body, you’re doing yoga.

If you’re unsure of what your body needs, feel free to ask your yoga teacher for help… Don’t be shy. Our teachers are literally there to teach, and often that means raising your hand with a question. Until then, explore your body with some of these modifications from Briohny Smyth.

Chatarunga, or Staff Pose 

Chaturanga the pose we love to hate—most likely because it’s a little challenging, and thus very strengthening. Chaturanga strengthens the abs, arms, wrists, and lower back, prepping the body for more challenging arm balances. That being said, it can be really hard on the wrists and surrounding tendons, especially if you’re new to your practice.

Traditional Pose: Begin in Plank Pose. Keeping your elbows directly over the wrists and your shoulders in line with your elbows, slowly lower to body and hover a few inches off the floor. Be careful not to let your chest drop or sag toward the floor. Draw the navel into your spine and keep the elbows pointed toward your heels.

Modified: Begin in Plank Pose. Lower the knees and come onto the tops of your feet with toes pointed. While maintaining a straight line from the knees to the crown of the head, exhale and bend at the elbows, bending as far as you can while keeping the elbows pinned into your sides, the navel toward the spine, and your tailbone moving toward your heels.

Garudasana, or Eagle Pose 

When people think of yoga poses that twist you up like a pretzel, they’re likely thinking of Eagle Pose. But Garudasana is challenging for a reason; this demanding pose improves balances, stretches the calves, and strengthens inner thighs and upper back. (Not to mention all that twisting will demand some pretty hardcore focus!) If you’re not ready for the full expression, the modifications can help you to reap these myriad of benefits.

Modified: Begin the same way that you would in traditional Eagle Pose, lifting the right foot and crossing it over the left thigh. Instead of wrapping the foot around the calf, lower the toes to the ground, creating another connection to the earth and a stronger sense of foundation. Cross the arms as you would in traditional Eagle and take 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Parivrtta Trikonasana, or Revolved Triangle Pose

Parivrtta Trikonasana is a pretty dynamic pose. While your feet are planted on the earth, the twist challenges balance and forces you to use your legs and core for support. This combination of twisting and balancing creates an opportunity to hone in and f-o-c-u-s, thus creating overall clarity and a sense of serenity. Upon release, the spine feels positively delicious and you’re ready for some forward folds.

Traditional: Stand with your feet about three feet apart and your right foot pointed forward and your left foot turned out. Square the hips to the front of your mat and toward the right leg, drawing the left hip forward the right hip backward. Draw the left hand inside or outside the right of the foot while twisting to the right. Reach your right hand toward the sky and lift your gaze to meet your fingers. Continue to draw the shoulder blades down and open the chest center, taking 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Modified: Begin as you would in traditional Eagle Pose, but instead of reaching your right hand to sky, use it to push the hip back revolve the torso open. Then pull the right hand to the chest, with the palm flat out toward the left. Take 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana, or Handstand

Ah, good ol’ handstand. So Instagram-worthy, and yet so challenging. Once you’re in handstand (and that’s including even a single second), you realize the magic of this pose. It’s strengthening, energizing, and confidence-boosting. Regardless of where you’re at on your handstand journey, there are myriad of options for you to make the most of this literally uplifting pose. Note: If you’re not fully comfortable with your handstand, it’s a good idea to practice with a spotter or wall. Safety first, yogis! 

Traditional: Start in downward facing dog and walk your feet together in at the midline, pressing your palms into the floor. Shift the weight into the balls of your feet. Step your right foot forward, about halfway to your hands while keeping your shoulders over your wrists. Bend the right knee, lifting the heel and pressing firmly into the hands. Lift your left leg into Standing Splits and wrap the biceps forward. Push firmly into your hands and straighten the arms and gently hop off the right foot. Draw the lower belly in toward the navel to support your pelvis and lift your right leg up to meet the left. Push down into the hands and reach up through the feet. Hug your legs into the midline and draw your low ribs toward the front hipbones.

Modified: You’ll want a partner for the modified version. Come into a Downward Facing Dog, keeping wrists under the shoulders with the navel drawing in toward the spine. Plant the right leg and lift the left into a Standing Split. Have your partner lift your right leg and raise both legs, so that you begin to ease your way into a handstand. Lift the thigh bones and until the pelvis comes in over the shoulders. Practice engagement by pulling the right knee into the chest.

What are your favorite modifications? Let us know in the comments below.