Understanding Yoga Biomechanics to Improve Practice

Understanding your body’s biomechanics is very important to prevent injury, especially in yoga. Biomechanics is the study of the movement and structures of the body. The study of biomechanics within yoga considers how muscles, bones, joints, and more work together to create postures, movements, and shapes.

Biomechanics is the study of the movement and structures of the body. Understanding biomechanics can reduce injury in yoga.

We can start by understanding the skeleton. The skeleton is the framework of the body and is made of bones. Bones are the foundation of the structure of the shapes created in practice. By aligning gravitational pull with longer bones, you can increase the strength of your shape. Because yoga places the body into so many different positions, yoga creates a lot of tensile load to our bones. This tensile load can actually help our bones stay healthy and strong.

Bones create levers for muscles in yoga. Muscles cross joints. Joints are where two bones meet. Contracting the muscles change the position of your joints.

Asana is the term for a yoga pose. Asanas should be comfortable without a lot of effort. By aligning longer axises of bones with gravity, you can decrease the effort of the pose. Take Tadasana (“Mountain Pose”), for example. Tadasana pose is standing erect and upright. Some head cues for Tadasana include having your head over your pelvis and your chin parallel to the floor. Those cues align the bones of the neck very well which makes it easier for you to hold your posture.

Gravity is constantly fighting against us in yoga. Paying attention to small cues such as aligning your chin can increase the amount of time you can hold a pose with ease.

Joint reaction forces are opposing forces across the joint surface. To prevent injury, it’s important to spread these forces over as much joint surface area as possible. Congruency of a joint is how well the surfaces fit and move with each other. When a joint is more congruent, it moves and stays in place well. When it moves out of an ideal place, injury can occur including subluxation which is when a joint temporarily goes “out.”

Joint reaction forces take into consideration the opposing forces of a joint. On the other hand, congruency is how the joint surfaces fit and move together.

You can understand these concepts better when considering Siddhasana (“Accomplished Pose”). In Siddhasana, you are sitting upright with your legs crossed which requires a lot of hip and knee range of motion. The hip is a ball and socket joint and has a lot of rotational range of motion. The knee is a hinge joint which allows less rotational motion. Siddhasana requires a lot of hip external rotation, or outward rotation, of the hip. If you are limited in hip external rotation, your body will try to use the knee or back to get more motion. Since the knee is already very limited in rotation, you will stress the knee joint in this scenario. Placing a block under your pelvis can help.

When a joint is limited in a motion, it will use other joints to get the motion it lacks. This can cause excessive stress to those joints.

A good resource for understanding your alignment is talking to a certified yoga instructor. Yoga instructors are trained in proper poses, flows, and general practice. For more information regarding injury prevention and treatment in regards to yoga practice, a physical therapist is an excellent resource. Feel free to contact me at brookecarmen@wholebodyhealthpt.com to learn more.


  1. Long, Ray, and Chris Macivor. Your Guide to Functional Anatomy in Yoga. Bandha Yoga Publications, 2006.