Should My Feet Touch the Ground in Downward-Facing Dog (Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana)?

I love when my yoga students tell me they’ve picked up an asana book (asana is Sanskrit for “seat” or “pose”) or watched a yoga DVD.  It makes me feel like I’ve inspired them in some small way.  Though without a doubt, they usually have questions about what the book or DVD demonstrates –usually because what they’ve seen is slightly different than the way I teach it.  The title of this blog entry was conceived in this very way –a student recently asked me this question based on the Yoga for Dummies book she was reading.

As simple as yoga is & was meant to be, it has become a tad confusing over the last few years with the various asana and teaching styles that exist.  Downward-Facing Dog (a.k.a. Down Dog) is a very common yoga pose.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a yoga class that doesn’t incorporate it.  Down Dog is also a prime example of how the popularity of yoga and its various styles has created different cues.

I (abellaYOGA) teach power vinyasa yoga.  The Down Dog cues I use encourage students to keep feet hip-width and heels reaching towards the floor but slightly off the floor.  Since the pose primarily focuses on lengthening the legs and spine, if the heels are flat on the ground the pose can no longer grow.  When the base of the pose (distance between hands & feet) is widened and the heels are slightly off the floor, there is room to explore, expand and ultimately take you beyond your edge.

On the flip side, my students with tight hamstrings can’t even straighten their legs let alone drop their heels towards the floor.  Unfortunately, some books and DVDs don’t and can’t address all the different body types and proper modifications to take.  For everybody, Down Dog will look and feel different.  Remember, yoga asana is about feeling, accepting where you are in your body and exploring your edge (going beyond your comfort zone).

I always tell my students “It doesn’t matter what a yoga pose looks like in a book; it’s about how it feels in your body”.  Learn to be okay with where you are in the pose.  This is your starting point.  Accept the beginning and then you can explore from there.  Yoga isn’t about forcing your body into a shape.  Yoga is about the journey and what you learn along the way –on and off the mat.  With exploration in your asana poses, comes expansion of the body, mind and spirit.  This is the heart of yoga.     

6 responses to this post.

  1. if you’ve watched “yoga anatomy” by paul grilly, sometimes bone compression prevents us from touching our heels to the ground in downward dog


  2. Thank you so much for clearing this up! I’m a complete beginner and only discovered yoga through Wii Fit (sad, I know) so I have no teacher telling me what’s right and what’s wrong. Inevitably, this led me to think that there’s something wrong with my legs when I can’t touch the floor fully with them. So thank you thank you again!


  3. Thanks for the reminder to be where I am at, not where someone else thinks I should be 🙂


  4. Thanks for the reminder to be where I am at, not where someone else thinks I should be 🙂


  5. I am computer illiterate!!! Sorry for hitting the button twice, once on my cooking blog and once on my life blog!!
    Can’t see how I can edit one, don’t know if you can….and that’s where I am today!!


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