A question that often comes up is whether the heels should be on the ground in downward dog. I understand why they think this as so many images of this pose show this effortlessly. The answer I give is… eventually. It took me many years to do so, and don’t be in a hurry to get there. If you shorten your stride to get your heels on the ground you not only reduce the degree of stretch for your back and legs but you also risk jamming your lower back. Here is a student’s story – Kelly is an amazing athlete/yogini, cook and overall great person.
I have been running a long time! I started running in my early teens as cross training for figure skating and also because my father needed a run buddy. There were no “learn to run” programs back then, you put on some old runners and took off.
My distance started to increase in my early 30s as a way to relieve the stress of a young family and my shifts as an ER nurse. I also started to run some races. I was lucky enough to run uninjured. I continued to increase my distance over the years and in my mid forties ran 10 races from March to September. That was when I noticed things starting to tighten up.
I know that runners love to talk about their injuries pre and post run but I did not want to be one of them. My goal in running was not to win races but to be running well into my 90s! I started to research stretching and running. I love research, must be from my health care background! I read a few articles on yoga and the benefits. I then researched yoga and running. That was when I came across Christine’s Fall Yoga for Runners retreat. Not one to hesitate, I emailed to go to this weekend retreat.
I then started to panic! What did I know about yoga, it looked like everyone was really bendy! I read about some of the poses and did not have a clue what downward dog was or a sun salutation. Back to researching and found a beginners yoga class downtown in Kingston and signed up.
The classes taught me the basic poses and what a sun salutation was. I bought a shiny new yoga mat. I was so incredibly nervous and not sure what I had gotten myself into.
My first impression of Christine and others who I now call friends was how serene and relaxed they looked. Christine showed me my room and was very welcoming. My first class that night we were seated for introductions, everyone in what I now know was hero pose. I tried to sit back but wow was I tight. Christine helped prop me up on two blocks! Basically I was kneeling and just leaning on the blocks. Then came downward dog and I saw many with their heels on the floor. My goal was to be able to sit back on my heels with no blocks propping me up and to reach the floor with my heels! Hey, I am a type-A athlete through and through and I needed a stretch goal.
I went home from that weekend armed with Christine’s DVDs and a new outlook on yoga. I never felt so good, both physically and mentally. I continued to practice with the DVDs at least three times a week and continued with my yoga training in a studio in Kingston teaching ashtanga yoga.
I went on to do Christine’s Yoga for Runners Teacher Training, more for myself than any desire to teach. I could sit comfortable in hero pose without any support but my heels still did not reach the floor consistently in down dog. I also noticed my running felt smoother and more relaxed than ever. All around me runners were taking breaks because of injury and I felt great.
I am now doing triathalon races but keep myself healthy by resetting with yoga. My body handles this stress much better when my yoga practice is consistent.
I have been to many of Christine’s retreats and am so excited to see all the familiar faces. This year my heels touched the ground in downward dog! I am 54 and still have not had any injuries. I credit yoga for much of that, I still do Christine’s DVDs or make up a class from her Yoga for Runners book. Yes I have it both hard copy and digital for when I am traveling! Yoga allows me to continue to do the things I love.