7 Feel-Good Modifications for the Most Popular Yoga Poses

There's always a way to make a yoga pose fit your body — not the other way around.
Image Credit: Natalia Tabilo/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

The 30-Day Yoga Challenge progresses from foundational poses to more complex asanas with variations and modifications for every body. Get all the details on the challenge here.

Yoga has a reputation for being only for the super-bendy. But the truth is, yoga isn't only about how flexible you are (phew!) — there's always a way to adjust a pose to make it work for you.

That's one of the reasons we teamed up with Natalia Tabilo, yoga teacher and creator of Yoga for All Bodies, to create our 30-Day Yoga Challenge. For each of the poses below (and all the others in the challenge), she offers modifications and variations for some of the most common yoga poses, like downward-facing dog and cobra pose.

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Though the seven yoga poses listed below are meant to be part of that month-long plan, you can try them whenever you need a good stretch or a moment to recenter. And don't feel limited to just these variations: Play around with positioning and props to find a way to make each pose feel best for your body.

If you're following along with the 30-Day Yoga Challenge, aim to hold each pose for 30 to 60 seconds, breathing in and out through your nose, at least twice a day.

Pose 1: Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Yoga
  1. Lie face-down on the floor and place your palms on the floor in line with your shoulders. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
  2. Press into your palms to raise your torso toward the ceiling and arch your back.
  3. Hold, then slowly bend your arms to lower back to the starting position.

Variations

Perform baby cobra by only lifting your chest up part way. Or do this pose while seated with your forearms on a bolster or folded blanket.

Pose 2: Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Yoga
  1. Start on all fours, with your weight in your hands and knees.
  2. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees as you push back into your heels.
  3. Your legs should be hip-width apart. Your arms should be at shoulder width, fingers spread wide.
  4. Pull the belly toward the spine and press your hips back to sink the heels down.
  5. Stay here for 30 seconds before slowly lowering down to all fours or child’s pose.

Variations

Place your hands on blocks or the seat of a chair.

Pose 3: Plank

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Yoga
  1. Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your hips directly above your knees.
  2. Step your right foot back and then your left foot to balance on your hands and toes. Your body should form a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. Tuck your pelvis in to engage your core and squeeze your glutes.
  3. Hold this position while maintaining a neutral spine.

Variations

Drop your knees down to the floor or place your hands on blocks.

Pose 4: Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Yoga
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift all 10 toes off the ground, spread them wide, then set them back down.
  3. Engage your quads and draw your bellybutton in.
  4. Lift your breastbone while softening the lower ribs.
  5. Externally rotate the arms so your palms face forward and let your arms hang by your sides.
  6. Roll the shoulders down your back.
  7. Tuck your chin in slightly and lift the crown of your head up.

Variations

You have the option to keep your feet together or spread them hip-width apart.

Pose 5: Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Yoga
  1. Sit with your left side against a wall. Rest your lower back against a bolster or pillow if you’re using one.
  2. Gently turn your body to the left and bring your legs up onto the wall. If you're using a bolster, shift your lower back onto the bolster before bringing your legs up the wall. Use your hands for balance as you shift your weight.
  3. Lower your back to the floor and lie down. Rest your shoulders and head on the floor.
  4. Shift your weight from side to side and scoot your sit bones close to the wall.
  5. Let your arms rest open at your sides, palms facing up. If you’re using a bolster, your lower back should now be fully supported by it.
  6. Let the heads of your thigh bones (the part of the bone that connects the hip socket) release and relax, dropping toward the back of your pelvis.
  7. Close your eyes and breathe in and out through your nose.
  8. To come out of this pose, slowly push yourself away from the wall and slide your legs down to the right side. Use your hands to press yourself back up into a seated position.

Variations

Use a chair instead of a wall, bending your knees and resting your calves on the seat of the chair.

Pose 6: Forward Fold to Half Lift (Uttanasana and Ardha Uttanasana)

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Yoga
  1. Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides.
  2. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips and let your head and arms hang gently.
  3. Press your palms on the ground or bend your elbows and cradle them in the opposite hands.
  4. Leave a slight bend in your knees rather than locking them.
  5. Inhale as you walk your hands up to your shins or thighs. Lengthen your spine and lift your torso parallel to the mat for halfway lift.
  6. Bend your knees slightly and lift the sit bones away from the backs of your knees.
  7. Lengthen the spine and draw your shoulder blades together.
  8. Exhale and come back into a forward fold.

Variations

Place your hands on blocks or the seat of a chair. You also have the option to do this pose seated in a chair with your hands on blocks.

Pose 7: Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Yoga
  1. From standing, step your left foot back into a lunge, turning your left toes out so they point to the side of the mat, and lower your left heel to the floor.
  2. Keep your stance long and ensure that your right knee is bent above, or slightly behind, the right ankle.
  3. Bring your arms to shoulder level, stretching them out so they're parallel to the floor (the right hand should point to the front of the mat while the left points to the rear). Gaze out over your front (right hand) fingers.

Variations

Perform this pose while seated on the edge of a chair.

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