1. Find your roots. In standing poses that means pressing your feet into the floor for stability. In seated poses, it’s your sitting bones that will ground. In Downward Dog, your hands and your feet become your roots. A strong foundation almost always makes for a stronger and safer pose.
2. Elongate your spine. This is the one instruction I hear more than any other in my yoga classes—and with good reason! When I learned to find as much length as possible in my spine my poses felt light, more buoyant, and a lot safer, too.
3. Pull the ribcage back in line and lengthen (but don’t tuck!) the tailbone. My tendency in most poses is to stick my butt out and my ribcage forward, creating a super-arch in my low back. It also creates a pesky dull ache. This is not the kind of backbend that will help you gain strength OR stability. So, I’m always checking in to make sure my tailbone is lengthening (i.e. my butt is not sticking out) and my rib cage is in line.
4. Firm your thigh muscles. I’m a hyper-extender. This means my joints are a little TOO flexible–particularly my knees. When I baring weight on my legs, as in standing poses like Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), I have to be careful not to put my knees in a compromising position. So, I have to be sure that my thigh muscles are firm and working to protect my knees.
5. Relax. No matter what pose I’m practicing, I try to find my edge. Then I take a deep breath and back off just a little. This way I’m working … but I’m not struggling. I can hold poses for longer this way, and I’m less prone to injury.
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