Saturday, December 31, 2011

Strengthening Calf Muscles with Yoga

Next to your thighs and buttocks, your calf muscles are the strongest muscles in your body. You rely on them to carry you through your daily chores. With all of the work they are expected to perform, your calf muscles can become shortened and are prone to seizing up if they are not stretched out. Make time every couple of days for yoga calf stretchers.
Staff Pose
Come to a seated position on the floor with your legs outstretched in front of you. Lean to the right and raise your left buttock off the floor slightly. With your hand, move the flesh of the outer left buttock to the left. Repeat on the right side. Lengthen your spine by stretching your upper torso up from your waist. Move your shoulder blades down your back and settle your head squarely on your shoulders. Lay your hands flat on the floor beside your hips. Flex your feet toward the ceiling to get the maximum stretch for your calf muscles. Stay in staff pose for up to five minutes.
Gate Pose
Kneel on a yoga mat or rug on the floor. Elongate your torso from the base of your spine through the crown of your head. Straighten your left leg out to the left, with the knee pointing up to the ceiling. Flex your left foot. Raise your arms to shoulder height and then on your next exhale bend at your waist to the left keeping your torso facing forward. Depending on how far you can stretch to the left, lay your left hand on your left thigh, calf or ankle. Raise your right arm over your head and take five breaths before repeating the sequence on your right side.
Chair Pose
Stand with your feet together, with your big toes and heels touching. Angle your tailbone downwards and contract the muscles in your abdomen. Lengthen your spine and push your shoulder blades down your back away from your ears. Inhale and raise both arms at once over your head. Exhale and start slowly lowering your hips towards the floor as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Ideally your thighs should be parallel to the floor in chair pose, but you can stop the sitting down motion at any point if you feel discomfort in your knees. Spend 30 seconds to one minute in chair pose. For an extra stretch for your calves in chair, lift your toes off the ground.
Modified Heron Pose
Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched in front of you. Bending your right knee, bring your right foot to rest against your groin and then lower the right outer leg to the floor. Raise your left leg off the floor and clasp your hands behind your left knee, calf or ankle; whichever is more comfortable. Instead of rounding your back, lean back slightly instead. Keep your left leg straight and the foot flexed at all times as your hands gently pull your left leg toward your head. Stop at any point the stretch feels too intense. Take five breaths on your left side and then repeat the pose on the right.

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