Squatting Position: Practice Tips and Modifications

Q: "Hello Ravi & Ana,

I've really been enjoying your videos for the past month or so and have already noticed improvements in my flexibility. One area I've always had difficulty with though is plies. My heels just will NOT stay down as I lower my body. (Needless to say, crow pose (squatting position) is impossible.)

I make it a point to stretch my calves, ankles and shins every day, but is there something else I should be doing?"

A: Thanks for writing. We are so happy to hear that you are enjoying our DVD's and it's wonderful to hear of your gains in flexibility!

The classic modification for Crow Pose when one can't release the heels to the floor is to roll a blanket and place it under the heels. However, one does not always want to get dependent on a fix but learn how to work with their own body to achieve a practical and effective pose for their particular anatomy.

Your yoga mat can be useful in that, rolled under the heels, it makes a sturdy support but it also has some give which will allow your heels to sink as you breath and become more flexible in the exercise.

Another modification is to widen your stance in a manner in which a pregnant woman might modify squatting position. In this case please be sure you keep weight on both the inner and especially outer edges of your feet, i.e., be careful you do not roll inwards.

You can also try balancing more on the balls of your feet while cultivating a feeling of pressing your heels towards the floor. Use the weight of your sacrum to do this.

The physical purpose of crow squat is to lengthen the spine while opening up the hips and giving the sacrum area a nice stretch. It also grounds ones energy. So, as long as you can feel these things occurring, you are gaining the benefits of the pose even if you are modifying it!

Of course, initially it can also provide quite a stretch into the ankles and various tendons of the feet.

Another way to try a squat is with your back against the wall which will give your back some support as you ease your weight back into your heels.

Its possible you have some stubborn achilles tightness, or you may need to release the top of the foot and the front of the ankle but many people get compression between the actual bones of the shin and foot. If you have been faithfully working on your stretches and breathing and you are still not making headway -- this could be the case. However, it could also be a placement/alignment issue.

We suggest, for now, in other style plies, focusing on your alignment (straight spine, navel engaged, lifted hips, equal weight on inner and outer edge of feet and heels, knees tracking over toes, etc.......) and only lower yourself as far as you can while keeping your heels on the floor.

The placement of the body and the mechanics of the body and how it works as a whole is far more important then the flexibility of one area of the body. For instance many Balanchine dancers were known to never quite land their heels in a plie and they had some beautiful and powerful leaps! However, one needed to be pretty advanced, with ideal balance and placement, to be able to pull that off!

In terms of diet, to promote flexibility, its important to maintain the body in an alkaline state. Cutting out sugar, coffee, alcohol, and meat and adding more fresh fruits and vegetables will help with this.

We wish you joy, health, and many blessings!