Yoga Anatomy: Heels Flat in Downdog + Why You Can’t Do It

Yoga Anatomy: Heels Flat in Downdog + Why You Can’t Do It

Do you ever wonder why your heels don’t touch the floor in downward dog? Do you have trouble getting comfortable in poses like dolphin, forearm stand, or forearm plank? Here’s why:


So, all that to say:

1) If your heels aren’t touching the ground in downdog and it bothers you or prevents you from fully lengthening the hamstrings and calves, you can compensate by bringing the floor up to you. You can roll up a thick towel (or two, depending on how much height you need) and lay it on your mat so your heels can rest there instead of remaining suspended above the ground.
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2) If you can’t get enough rotation in your forearms to come comfortably in to dolphin, forearm stand, or forearm plank, don’t worry about it! Wrap your hands around the sides of a yoga block (or super thick book) so that the thumbs remain facing up. This doesn’t require as much rotation of the joints and will still allow you to do the poses in a way that feels good. Note: my head isn’t resting on the block even though my cray-cray hair makes it look like it ;). My neck is relaxed so it’s just in front of the block, I’m looking between my knees and my head is hovering above the ground.Β 
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Tell me: Got any other poses you want de-mystified?Β Let me know which poses you want broken down and given options for and I’ll get on it πŸ˜‰Β 

22 Comments

  1. Hi Erin! Italian fan here.
    I think this is a very good post and I’d like to discuss with you one legged pigeon pose. I watched plenty of videos, but I still can’t get if we have to touch the floor with the hip of the folded leg or we have to “float” on the hip.
    I hope you can understand what I’m trying to tell you πŸ™‚ Any tips?
    Un abbraccio!

    Reply
    • Yes same question from me. I can never tell if I’m doing it right.

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    • good one, gea! will put that on my list πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. I’m impressed that you made that information easy to understand and conversational. That was very, very interesting!

    Reply
  3. I’m impressed that you made that information easy to understand and conversational. That was very, very interesting!

    Reply
  4. Yeah! I’m not a freak!

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  5. Erin I LOVE this! Only recently in my practice have I realized that sometimes my bones/anatomy being different is why I struggle with certain poses. It’s so nice to learn that downdog is one of those. πŸ™‚ I would love to see future posts on how differences in things like leg and arm length (or even ratios like shin to thigh length) affect the shape of different poses. Thanks for being so awesome!

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  6. Very informative and casual, I love it! I’d like to ask how I can improve on reaching my toes. Actually I find it hard to do any pose related to calves and legs. I’m not sure if it’s because I have long legs and shorter torso or because my muscles are too tight but it’s really hard for me. Sometimes I feel like I strain my back and neck a little in order for me to do it. I always bend my knees when I do the half pose as I can’t reach the floor. Please help me. Thank you! πŸ™‚

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  7. I enjoy all of your video’s. I always thought that it was my hips not flexing enough to be the reason my heels stay off the mat. Now I will have to see if my ankles and the issue.

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  8. I’d love to learn more about forward folds

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  9. Why do I have such trouble keeping my hands clasped behind my back? It’s hard to get them clasped anyway, but near impossible to keep them that way when I’m sweating and moving around in poses like humble warrior. Help!

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    • Me too!

      Reply
  10. No matter how many times I see someone explain how to do Up-Dog, I still can’t seem to do it and always wind up taking Cobra instead in the Vinyasa. Some tips and tricks for Up-Dog would be great!

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    • Up-Dog is kind of like a plank in that your lower body is still straight and there is body weight tension using your muscles to lift the body. From cobra you would lift your lower body off the floor with the top of your feet facing down – so there is space between your body and the floor excluding your hands and feet, your legs should be straight and you shouldn’t let anything “sink”! I know I’m not Erin but I hope that helps you!

      Reply
  11. Love this video! Could you please make a similar one about double pigeon pose? I really can’t get my knees anywhere near to what it’s supposed to look like. πŸ™‚

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  12. Thank you so much! I had no idea there was actually a reason behind why my heels didn’t touch the floor in down dog. You’re amazing Erin, love all your videos!

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  13. Hey Erin! I’ve been working on my forearm stands but I’ve noticed that my elbows hurt and have “rug burn” is there any way I can prevent this from happening or is it a problem for all yogis? πŸ™‚

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  14. Thanks for explaining this so simply something that I personally struggle with

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  15. I’d love pointers on sitting comfortably in malasana – squat. After more than a decade of practicing and teaching it’s still a pain in the groin, both figuratively and literally. Thanks!

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  16. Hi. This is awesome. Thank you. I am one of those who have difficulties with downdog. Ive been practicing for almost 5 months now & it’s kinda frustrating that i still can’t get it right. Based on what u have discussed, my problem is more on tension. I can make my heels reach my mat but my knees tend to micro bend. My bigger problem is that no matter how hard i push on my mat, my back rounds up; i cant keep my spine flat and hips as high as id like to. Is it my hamstrings that are tight or my back muscles? Can my slight scoliosis (18Β°) have something to do with this too? Thanks!

    Anyone, please feel free to share tips and tricks on this one. Thanks.

    Reply
  17. I hope I can explain this: I have trouble with balance, I have deformed feet for 6 years of high heel dancing (folklore) and in my growing years :s from 6 to 12, and used corrective shoes from 3-5 and remember doing feet therapy for bad foot/knee posture, now, it hurts when I try to balance and I focus on the four points, and I noticed that if my foot is well aligned, my hips turn, and I loose my balance. Is there a way to correct the poses for someone with this problems? Thank you!

    Reply
  18. I’m 5 foot and I can not touch the floor in forward fold unless I bend my knees a lot. I think it’s just tightness in my legs or I’m not doing it correctly. Seriously how hard can bend forward to touch the floor be? You would like a short person would be able to touch the floor with ease.

    Reply

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