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Most of you have heard me say, in one class or another, that yoga begins with the feet. They are what ground us, our connection to the earth, our solid foundation.

Equally important, though, is the ankle. Our foot grounds us, our ankle is the link to the rest of the body. When you stop and think about it, the ankle works incredibly hard — especially in balancing poses. The small muscles and ligaments that support it are under intense pressure from our body weight. Balancing challenges them even more as they are the communicate the intentions of our body to our foundation.

Ankles are also vulnerable due to their flexibility and the daily demand we place on them. These three yoga poses build strong ankles to serve us in the studio and on the street.

Awkward pose (Utkatasana)

Awkward pose works your major lower body muscle groups, the quads and glutes, so you may not even notice how hard your ankles work. Next time you’re in the studio pay special attention to the quality of the connection between your feet and legs, especially when you rise onto your toes for the second part. At this point it is easy to roll the ankle outward, straining it. Focus on keeping your weight on the toes and your ankle strong and straight.


Lotus pose

Lotus pose (Padmasana)

Classic lotus pose is simple, elegant, difficult and fantastic for your ankles. The full expression which is sitting cross-legged with your feet on the tops of your thighs looks simple but is an advanced posture. You can start by placing one foot at a time on top of the thigh, breathing in the pose for a few breaths, then changing feet. Eventually you will build the flexibility to go into the full posture.

Eagle pose (Garudasana)

Eagle pose is wonderful because it builds strength and flexibility fast. The ankle of your standing leg is working hard to keep your whole body connected and balanced. Pay special attention to keeping it strong, with the weight evenly distributed on the foot and your  hips straight facing the mirror. Wrapping the other leg creates a fantastic stretch that works deep into the muscles and connective tissue.

Questions about ankles? Ask in the comment or tweet @YogaWithPaul