Our Achilles tendons connect the ankle and calf. Literally every step we take puts pressure on the tendon and overuse can cause pain and stiffness. Runners are particularly prone to Achilles tendon problems, but it can strike anyone.
Yoga is a terrific tool to stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon. An ounce of prevention, as the saying goes, is worth a pound of cure, and regular yoga can help avoid injuries. One important thing: take it easy. Relax, breathe into any resistance and listen to your body. Never force a stretch to the point of pain.
Practicing these three Achilles tendon yoga poses will increase the power and flexibility of the lower leg, creating a stronger more stable tendon.
Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
Downward-facing dog is a great whole body awakening and strengthening stretch that targets your Achilles. Press your hands to the floor, draw in your belly, and let your legs find a comfortable stretch. You may not be able to get your feet flat on the floor, which is fine. You can “walk the dog”, flexing alternate knees to loosen your calves and hamstrings. As you build flexibility work towards having your feet flat, but don’t strain.
Eagle pose (Garudasana)
Eagle pose is a fantastic stretch and strength and flexibility fast. The ankle of your standing leg is working hard to keep your whole body connected and balanced, this strengthens the small muscles in your lower leg, creating more support for the Achilles tendon. Because this is a challenging pose, take it slow. Start with just a few seconds and gradually increase how long you hold the pose. Keep the weight evenly distributed on the foot and your hips straight. Wrapping the other leg creates a fantastic stretch that works deep into the muscles and connective tissue.
Garland pose (Malasana)
Also known as the yogi squat, garland pose is a great stretch for your back, ankles, Achilles and groin. Separate your feet to about shoulder-width, or to the sides of your mat, heels in a line, toes turned out. Squat down and bring your palms together at the centre of your chest. Your torso should be firm and back straight. You can intensify the stretch by pressing your elbow into your inner thighs. Inhale and exhale through the nose, relaxing into the pose for maximum flexibility.
Questions or concerns about your Achilles tendon? Ask in the comments!