You might have attended a Yoga class where the teacher has passionately discussed an asana, followed by an awe inspiring demonstration, stating ‘this is the final pose’. Of course a teacher’s intention is to guide and inspire us. Yet, governed by our state of spirit, mind and body, this can either dishearten or inspire us.
Let me level with you right now by admitting that I’m guilty of admiring Yogis who can put their heels on the ground in Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward-facing dog. The reason is simple, I haven’t got there yet…
One day during a Yoga class, I experienced one of those moments where I forgot to breathe and my ego reared its ugly head to challenge me. The class were asked to gather around my mat, then invited to critique my pose. One student suggested that I may never push my heels through the ground. This caused a healthy debate, to which I replied breathless from my pose ‘You may not be at peace with it, but I am’. A statement which intended to be funny was, actually, a barking retaliation from my ego (valuable lesson learned).
Here’s the thing. Adho Mukha Svanasana is technically a resting posture, one we find our way back to throughout many popular sequences. It works the entire body and therefore exposes our weaknesses. This gives us knowledge which we can use to seek our wisdom. So why not embrace downward-facing dog and make it your best friend? On a physical level, some people will find grounding their heels in downward-facing dog a challenge from hunching their spine or having tight neck and shoulders. Some people may have muscle tightness, or skeletal limitations. On an emotional level it may well be linked to instability, fear or stress.
We are unique living breathing creatures of the universe, not machines. Every time we step on the mat to practice Yoga, our poses will always look and feel different. It’s a rather striking point, which we all too soon forget.
In the spirit of greeting the challenge, here are some pointers to help tame your dog and bring those heels down.
- Isolate your area of improvement eg; if it’s your shoulders, practice other poses in Pashchima Namaskarasana, reverse prayer pose
- Pedal your feet each time you practice downward-facing dog and hold the pose for a tiny bit longer
- Raise one leg up at a time to increase the stretch on each side
- Bring the floor to your heels by rolling your mat or folding a few blankets
- Shorten your stance by reducing the space between your hands and feet
- Work with the wall, pushing your heels against the wall
The important factor regardless of whether you can or cannot root down your heels is practice with intent, and you will still get the same benefit from the pose. Use your mind and body to find the space you want to grow into. Space is infinite, and infinity is an abstract descriptor without limits and endless possibilities. So just remember to breathe, believe and be, knowing that with time dedication and practice it will come.