Low Back or Leg Injury? Stay Active With Modified Sun Salutations

Willow Ryan


Portland, Oregon, United States


Many people believe that to participate in yoga means to go when feeling great or not go at all. It is a recurrent theme heard from many students who shy away from attending a class when they have an injury. But this is the precise reason why the student should attend. Learning how to rework your yoga practice during time of injury can help alleviate the associated pain, discomfort, and frustration. Be proactive and stay active.


yoga, forrest yoga, yoga while injured, sun salutation



I recently sustained a second-degree strain on my medial gastrocnemius (calf muscle), which left me unable to walk, let alone practice my favorite standing poses. Still, I was determined to attend a yoga class, hoping to gain insight into this specific injury and rework the poses to accommodate my physical limitations. What I gained from the experience was an ability to build strength in uninjured areas while allowing rest for the injured area.


When you yourself become injured, be proactive

  1. Seek a diagnosis from a reputable health care professional such as a chiropractor or doctor.
  2. Speak the truth of your reality. When you have an injury, tell the instructor your diagnosis.
  3. Ask the instructor for his/her plan of the class, and ask what alternatives or modifications of poses will be taught.
  4. View the yoga poses as basic shapes and mimic them to the best of your ability.
  5. Do modifications that feel good and comfortable to you while injured.
  6. Return to your full regular practice only when the injury is completely healed.


Sun salutations are a common sequence incorporated in many yogic traditions. Here are the modifications I used to treat my calf injury while participating in the yoga class.


Sun Salutations Modified for Low Back or Leg Injury

All poses are done with your back against wall. Grab a rolled up mat, put it between your upper inner thighs, and put a block between your calves. Squeeze both the mat and the block gently during all poses to activate adductors, hamstrings, and calves.


Traditional Yoga Pose Injury Variation with Modifications
Standing Mountain Pose Standing Mountain pose with hands in Namaste
Forward Fold Palms at hip crease, press upper thighs back, flex belly
Plank-Chatturanga Press arms up overhead and keep ribcage pressing into the wall.
Cobra Easy Backbend: Hands grab hips, press pelvis down, arc chest and expand ribs on inhale
Lunge Side Lunge: Step left leg to the left, turn left foot to 45-degrees and bend knee, right leg is extended
Down Dog Chair pose with hands in Namaste, elbows shoulder height, press palms to engage latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior
Lunge Side Lunge: Step right leg to the right, turn right foot to 45-degrees and bend knee, left leg is extended
Forward Fold Hands press upper thighs back, flex belly
Standing Mountain Pose Standing Mountain pose with hands in Namaste


Not all poses have to resemble the specific shape called out in class. Get to know the basic elements and areas that are being strengthened or stretched and apply this knowledge to modify your own variation or create a new pose altogether. You know your body best and you can collaborate with the instructor to remedy the injury and get you back to doing the activities you love.

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