5 most popular yoga poses this winter... and the mistakes you're probably making

Yoga instructors share their top tips for nailing these popular poses

woman doing camel yoga pose
(Image credit: Lululemon)

Yoga can have numerous benefits for the body and mind. Getting started is easy – it requires minimal equipment and space, and can be practiced easily at home, which are some of the reasons why so many people took it up during lockdown. But like any exercise, if you do it wrong it has potential to cause you damage. Gymwear brand Lululemon (opens in new tab) – maker of some of the best yoga pants around, by our reckoning, as well as some of the best yoga mats – has looked at the most popular yoga poses, and enlisted the help of yoga experts Katarina Rayburn (opens in new tab) and Darvina Plante (opens in new tab) to flag up the most common mistakes people make with them. 

This list is based on data gathered from Instagram, too, so we suspect it's skewed towards those poses that look cool... which can often equate to the ones that are tricky to master. Here are Katarina and Darvina's top tips for nailing this year's most popular yoga poses.

woman doing headstand yoga pose

(Image credit: Lululemon)

1. Headstand / Salamba Shirshasana

Difficulty: advanced 

What do people do wrong?
Attempting it before you've built up the necessary strength in the shoulders. Katrina says you want to have been regularly practicing yoga for around a year before you start attempting a headstand. 

"When trying it for the first time, use a wall for support and never jump into it," she says. "If you’re struggling, it may be because you’re not engaging your shoulders or that your elbows are too far apart."

woman doing wheel yoga pose

(Image credit: Lululemon)

2. Wheel Pose / Chakrasana

Difficulty: advanced 

What do people do wrong?
"If you’re struggling in the pose, you may have your hands and feet too close together," says Katrina. "Engaging your hamstrings and glutes can also help." 

Darvina echoes her sentiment: "Once up, try to keep engagement in the glutes and hamstrings and maybe even place a block in between the thighs to ensure engagement." 

If you have yoga blocks available, you could also add a pair under your hands or feet, which can help make this pose more accessible for some people. 

woman doing tree yoga pose

(Image credit: Lululemon)

3. Tree Pose / Vrikshasana

Difficulty: beginner 

What do people do wrong?
Putting your foot on the side of the knee! That creates pressure that's not safe for your joint. Stick to either your calf (for beginners) or upper thigh (for those with greater flexibility). 

Finding yourself wobbling around? "Be sure to focus on one point in front of you to find your balance and ground your standing leg," suggests Katarina. 

"Know that the hand can be used on a wall for extra support," adds Darvina. "Then bring your hands to heart-centre and – if you like a challenge – allow your eyes to close."

woman doing camel yoga pose

(Image credit: Lululemon)

4. Camel Pose / Ustrasana

Difficulty: intermediate 

What do people do wrong?
"The key thing here is to avoid collapsing into the lower back," says Katarina, "so contract your glutes to add some stability and protect it." 

"In kneeling, tuck your toes and take a deep breath in. Slowly start to track your gaze up and back and reach back to your heels," explains Darvina. "If you want to, bring your hands up in front of you to heart-centre, always looking for as much length through the side body as possible."

woman doing tree yoga pose

(Image credit: Lululemon)

5. Crow Pose / Kakasana

Difficulty: intermediate 

What do people do wrong?
Like headstand, this requires some muscle power. "Work on other strengthening poses such as high and low plank first," suggests Katarina. "This will help build the strength you need."

"Inhale, sweep the arms up. Exhale, swan dive and bend the knees as much as you need. Look in towards the belly. Look forwards and inhale. Plant the hands ahead of you. Start to bring the knees in towards the armpits. Lean forwards, looking forwards. Maybe one foot lifts off, maybe both feet lift off. Find your moment of balance and hold it for five," explains Davina. 

Check out the full top 10, plus more of Katarina and Darvina's tips (opens in new tab).

Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.