Should The Heels Of The Feet Touch The Floor During The 5th Rites of "The Five Tibetans"?
It's up to you really! You can perform it exactly as instructed (heels raised above the floor) in the original book "The Eye of Revelation" - written in 1939 about the discovery of the monks (Download Free Here) - or you can lower the heels to the floor for the reasons mentioned below. It won't make any difference to the intended purpose of the Rites, which is to get the chakras spinning more rapidly so Qi can circulate freely throughout the body.
This pose is made up of two parts. Downward Dog as illustrated above (upside down V shape) and a variation of Upward Dog as illustrated below.
Many yoga postures are derived from observing the movement of animals. Rite No 5 is a very common yoga posture known as Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit. It resembles a dog stretching after a nap. In today's terms; having the heels elevated off the floor is a classic beginner's version of Downward Dog. Beginners leg muscles are often very tight and many would not be able to lower their heels to the floor without overstraining. Over time as muscles stretch, most people are able to comfortably lower their heels to the floor - and this increases the beneficial effects of the stretch.
However, everyone is built individually including the size & proportion of their bones. In some people the bones of the ankle and the foot compress, preventing any further movement. They will never be able to place their heels flat on the floor (I am one of them) - because that is the way they were born. Once bone and bone compress, there is nowhere else to go. You can release tension in the muscles but you can't stretch bone! For fascinating information on compression and tension - and why some people can't do certain yoga postures the same way as others - see Paul Grilley's "Anatomy for Yoga" DVD.
Downward Dog is recommended for:
for energising the body
Stretching the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
Strengthening the arms and legs
Yoga Journal describes this 'Deepening of The Pose' as follows:
..."To increase the stretch in the backs of your legs, lift slightly up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Then draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, lifting actively from the inner heels. Finally, from the height of the groins, lengthen the heels back onto the floor, moving the outer heels faster than the inner."...
A precedent for having the heels touch the floor can be found in the ancient 8th Century Tibetan Yantra Yoga as taught by the Master Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. On page 174 of his book "Yantra Yoga - The Tibetan Yoga of Movement" published by Snow Lion Publications - the text and the corresponding illustration instruct students to place the heels on the floor.
Therefore I suggest you make a personal decision as to whether you want to stick to the pure original or 'deepen the stretch' as we do in the T5T® version of The Five Tibetan Rites.
During the 2nd part of the movement in the T5T® method, we avoid doing the posture on our tip toes (as illustrated in The Eye of Revelation) to avoid compression of the vertebrae and discs.