Yoga basics

What part of your body is most challenged in yoga and how do you address it in your practice?

Ask a Yogi Series

You’ve practiced with them on YogaGlo. You’ve followed them on Facebook. You might even take their classes in person once in awhile if they travel to or live in your city. But how well do you know our YogaGlo teachers? We’ve created a new series, Ask a Yogi, so you can learn more about them by asking questions you’ve always wanted to ask.

From favorite poses and tips for beginners to deeper questions about how their practice has changed their worldview, our teachers will collectively answer a new question each week. If you have a questions that you’d like to “Ask a Yogi”, let us know in the comments or email us at and we’ll add your question to the list. Today’s Ask a Yogi question is:

  • Kathryn Budig: Upper back! Backbends have always been difficult for me. I used to hate them, but through years of practice and trial & error I love them. I adore the challenge and constant quest to find a bit more.
  • Jason Crandell: The gap between my teeth and my skin tone are the two things that are holding me back in my asana practice. I work on them with rubber bands and self-tanning gel every night.
  • Tiffany Cruikshank: Definitely my mind, the ability to settle into the practice mentally varies a lot from day to day. Usually my mat is my sanctuary where I welcome the place where my mind can just settle in, but some days are trickier than others for sure. If I can tune into my breath it usually creates a space for my mind to drop into.
  • Steven Espinosa: As a former dancer, I’ve always been pretty flexible. But even after all these years of practicing yoga my HIPS STILL GET TIGHT! I mean, they are far more open than they used to be for sure. But unless I keep them open they tighten up fast! But I’ve come to understand it’s just life. All the sitting, driving and working at computers we do make our hips tight. Biking, hiking, running, spinning, also tighten up the hips, thighs and psoas muscles. So whenever I practice, I make sure to include hip/thigh/hamstring stretches. Or else!
  • Marc Holzman: Shoulders. They’re strong but tight as hell. It’s tempting to force them open with brut strength, but actually just working with breath, softening, using props, and the wall yield the best results for me. I can turn any pose into a shoulder opener simply by placing my attention there.
  • Amy Ippoliti: It depends, I’ve got a lot of body parts and they each have their moments of taking center stage! It changes for me based on what is going on in my life. I try to take each challenge as they come, I’ll seek another teacher’s feedback on how I can align differently in poses to see if it helps, and I’ll also seek out bodyworkers, chiropractors and physical therapists to get to the core issue causing the challenge and then devote myself to getting better through their guidance and through my practice.
  • Tara Judelle: I broke my left arm when I was six in what was called a greenstick break (meaning the bones weren’t fully hard yet so the bone bent). They had to put me to sleep to reset the bone to wrestle my arm in to the desired position. Through body work I learned my fascia (muscle casing) wore the cast for 30 more years, so my left shoulder is always trying to figure things out. I am incredibly mindful of how I place my left collarbone, arm bone and scapula. I have learned through body mind centering that my bones can remember their original blueprint pre-injury, so I spend a lot of time trying to relearn the original structure.
  • Dice Iida-Klein: My back body has always been tight. From my lower back to upper back, I’ve been quite inflexible. Only in the past 2 years have I begun to focus on opening my heart and exploring backbends. Achieving safe and effective backbends have been my main focus in my practice, so I make sure to go for safety over aesthetics.
  • Kia Miller: My knees are both challenged in the last couple of years due to an injury. They have become my greatest teachers. I have learned to focus on what I can do and not to sweat what I cannot currently do. Every day is a new day and I am grateful as it makes me a better and more compassionate teacher.
  • Christina Sell: Well, I think the every part of my body is challenged and the longer I practice the more this seems to be the case. The whole thing with yoga is that as soon as we can master a basic pose we start looking at harder postures to perform. So while my hips are open enough for a good triangle posture, I want to do deeper postures than that and so I feel like they are still tight! It is a certain kind of madness, really. (I mean that with a sense of humor.) What do I do to address it? I keep practicing. I have a handful of things I do to release my psoas when it is bound. I a have routine to open my lower legs and feet when my legs are tight, I have great shoulder and chest opening protocol, and I have endless tricks for opening up my upper back. Really, it just all depends on what I am working on that day and what openings are required for the postures on my agenda and all that has to be balanced with what state my body is in that day as well.
  • Sianna Sherman: My mind. I attune my mind through proper breathing, meditation, mantra, contemplation and asana that balances steadiness and ease.
  • Stephanie Snyder: I have an old injury in my lumbar spine. I have to be mindful of extension and flexion in my lower back. Also carrying my baby around keeps my shoulders pretty full of love (read: tight ass shouldahs)
  • Jo Tastula: Hip flexors. Oye, they are perpetually tight!  I like to warm up with sun saluations ‘c’ (surya namaskar c) which has a lot of lunges in it. I also surrender to the fact that I am naturally a forward bender and not a back bender.
  • Felicia Tomasko: I’m not necessarily one of those naturally bendy people. And my back only bends so far back, so I don’t expect to be on a magazine cover rocking out some crazy poses. I like to think about how, through practice, I can cultivate a sense of overall strength, overall ease, overall flexibility. I do work with backbends, even though my temptation is sometimes to avoid them. I ease into them slowly, work carefully with my abdominal muscles, and focus on extension rather than compression. My shoulders are also not so in love with repeated Chaturangas. I’m not sure if I did something, but if I overdo it, I’ll feel a twinge (and sometimes worse) around my left deltoid, so I’m an every-other-Vinyasa knees-to-the-floor, engaging the abdominals, kind of yogini. I want to be still doing my practice when I’m 80, 90, 100, and beyond. Speaking of which, one of these days maybe I’ll pop into headstand, but it took me years (and some dedicated Iyengar and Sivananda teachers) to learn how to do headstand in the center of the room. Like all of us, inversions take some getting used to.
  • Harshada Wagner: The physical part. My asana practice is only a small fraction of what it was 20 years ago when I was an asana teacher. I have some old knee injuries that I know how to work around. I find much of the yoga these days to be super athletic – too much so for me. I like to do very mellow sequences that help my spine and help to balance my energies.

Specific yoga poses to address specific body parts


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