Sri K Pattabhi Jois said, "Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory." This blog is a resource to explore the one percent theory and to inspire you on the mat.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Turn out or lift the heels in drop backs? Feeling sore, should I take a day off? My doctor says I should stop practicing Ashtanga?--Ask a question

Students often write me with specific questions concerning their practice. Here are a few of the answers I have given the past couple of months. Enjoy!

1) Hi David,

I have been attempting to come up from drop back by pushing into my arms and using momentum to rock up to standing. I am able to rock up about 50% of the time. My heals tend to come up most of the time. I noticed in the PT3 video your student's heel also comes up but in the other video's the students heels don't come up but sometimes the toes go out like in 2nd position in ballet. What is the correct position?

Hi ____,
The correct position for coming up is variable, it can be different for different people. Generally I prefer lifting the heels to turning the feet out. Or another good option is to use a little combination of heel lift and turn out. I do caution people not to turn out too much, because it can compromise the joints, especially knees. Also lifting the heels can be felt more like transferring the weight forward into the mounds of the toes. It is best to minimumize both lifting the heels and turning the feet out. Rather try to track the hips, knees, feet as straight as possible, but this can be very challenging! Hope this helps. Thanks for writing!! David

2)Hello David,

Thank you so much for your videos. I think they are great. Now I'm new to yoga (a month or so) and I want to practice every day but i feel so sore sometime i cant even do the asanas right. Any advice? I appreciate any help and thank you in advance.

Hi _____, thanks for your message. That's great you've taken to yoga. It's natural you're feeling so sore because it's all so new. Practice as often as you can, but don't be too hard on your body or your self. You can do a smaller practice on those days when you feel you can't do the asana's right. But it is good to try to do a little bit each day, it's only if you get really, really sore and tired that you should take an extra day off when you need it. Best Wishes, David

3)Hi David,

I've been practicing Ashtanga yoga since October last year during a vacation in Bali from Prem & Radha. And I've been following your blog since then.

Since learning the primary series, I practiced every day at home.
Unfortunately I live in a place where there is no authorized/certified teacher. After a medical check up, I was diagnosed with mild scoliosis to the right. Another doctor also found I have a carpal tunnel syndrome (right wrist).

I told the doctor my sole fitness regime: Ashtanga 6 days a week.
She told me to quit Ashtanga as it seems it gives lots of pressure to my wrist. And the inversions, will only make my scoliosis worse.

I stopped practicing this week and substituted it with swimming every day just like the doctor told me. And I feel terrible. I miss my practice. Is there any way to keep doing my practice with carpal tunnel syndrome & scoliosis?

Hi _____, thank you for sharing your challenges with me.
First I will say yes most definitely you can continue to practice with scoliosis and carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are some extra challenges involved. You most likely will need to modify things and having a teacher can be a big help with this. Concerning your wrist (or wrists), the pain can tend to be episodic or more cyclical. Sometimes the pain may flair up more than others. In that case you have to be sensitive and aware and have a good plan for when you have pain. For instance you can take the pressure off your wrists when you do surya namaskara by: 1) not bending your elbows in catauranga dandasana, and instead go from plank to your next position. Or 2) you can make a fist out of each hand and do the catauranga on your knuckles. Or 3) you can buy a set of those wrist protecting props made by hugger mugger that accomplish the same fist idea but in a little fancier way. And 4) you can simply minimize or not do the postures that involve weight bearing on your wrists. For example you can go through both surya namaskara a and b using the wall without putting weight on your wrists. 5) you can do less surya namaskara and spend more time on the standing postures and other postures that don't involve weight bearing on the hands/wrists. When you get to the seated postures you can modify, reduce or eliminate the jump back/jump through vinyasa. These are just some of the possibilities, please know that there is always a way to modify the practice to suit specific problems or other extra requirements.

The essential ingredient is a love of ashtanga and in maintaining a steady devotion and trying to do the practice as accurately as your given circumstances allow. Inversions don't necessarily have to contribute to your scoliosis, but I would advise you to eliminate them until you are able to receive instruction from a highly qualified teacher. There are many aspects of the practice besides inversions to develop and enjoy at this time. Hopefully sometime sooner than later you'll be in position to get some hands on help with the challenges you are facing. But in the meantime you can try experimenting with the suggestions I've made and let me know how it's going.

One last small note is that there will always be someone to tell you that you can't do ........... the list of possible things or activities or dreams is endless and so is the list of people who will tell you can't do that something. Sometimes they may be right but equally sometimes they are wrong. And ultimately you have to decide how important something is to you. And when you've decided on that something that is important enough to you, you may need to guard and protect the heck of it in order to for it to remain a strong, positive force in your life. As people we can tend to be suspicious of what we don't know about, and if on the surface something looks strange or exotic or very different from what we know or are used to, we can tend to form negative impressions of that thing. But our own fear and unwillingness to be open to new or different things can us cause to make wrong assessments of things and to unfairly judge what we don't have enough information to be judging. I believe it would be a true waste for you to stop developing the ashtanga yoga practice that you have begun and love. If you practice properly there is a strong chance that ashtanga can help correct or at least minimize the negative effects of both of your problems better than any thing else that you will try. I have found that ashtanga applied properly, has huge potential for transformation and healing. Om! David


  1. Namaste David,
    I hope you are doing well!
    Thank you so much for always sharing your insights through your own experience!
    Sending Om's from the SouthWest!
    with love,

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David welcomes comments on his posts, however, due to time constraints he is not able to respond to every comment.