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For many of us, it is well into the height of Winter. Wearing our Winter Boots, shuffling on icy sidewalks, and then staying fairly stagnant cuddled up on the couch on the evenings and weekends. All of this is quite likely leading you to feel tight, stiff, sore calves and ankles.
These are 7 easy stretches you can do to loosen up the lower legs.
Have 1 block handy if you’ve got it, or a thick book will do.
1. Toe Squat – From hands and knees, curl your toes under as you sit back on to the heels. You may need to use your hands to move your little toes out of the way. If this is too intense you can untuck the toes and rest on the tops of the feet. To provide some distraction, you can inhale the hands up and exhale the hands down as you hold here. Add in a twist, by bringing the left hand to your right knee and bringing the right hand back behind you. Then right hand to left knee and left hand back behind you.
2. All Fours – Come to hands and knees, setting the wrists up under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Spread the fingers wide and untuck the toes. Move through a few rounds of cat/cow – Inhale, drop the belly and lift the gaze. Exhale, contract and tuck the chin to the chest. Return to a neutral table top pose, then extend the right leg back behind you. Push in to the right heel, getting a stretch in to the calf. Pick up the right foot and step it as far to the left side as you can. Looking over the left shoulder towards the foot. Pushing the right hip backwards to get a stretch through the right side body. Float the right foot up straight behind you and do some ankle rolls.
3. Low Lunge – Step your right foot through to the top of the mat, outside of the right hand. Line the knee up over the ankle, and not past. Tuck the left toes under and lift the back knee off of the mat. Push through the left heel as you rock back and forth. Keep your left hand down on the mat, reaching the right arm up to the ceiling in an easy twist. Lower the right hand down and step your right foot back coming in to to downward dog. Stretch further in to the calves in this downdog by keeping your left knee bent as you ground down through the right heel. Then bend the right knee and take the left heel down to the mat.
Repeat 2 and 3 through on the other side before moving on.
4. Warrior 1 – From downward dog, kick your right foot up. Bend your right knee, kicking the right foot toward the left, and opening the hip up. Then step the right foot up to the front of the mat. Spin the back toes out 45 degrees and drop the heel down. Lift the hand up from the mat as you bend in to the right knee. Reach the arms up overhead. Push deeply in to the back foot to get a stretch in to the left ankle and calf. Bend further in to the front knee to get deeper in to the stretch through the back leg.
5. Pyramid Pose – Lower the hands on to the hips. Step the left foot in slightly. As you inhale, find length through the spine. As you exhale, hinge forward from the hips. Stop and hold when you come parallel to the mat. Keeping the legs straight, but avoid hyper-extending the knees. Inhale, to lift the torso. Step the left foot forward, beside the right. Bend the knees, drop the hips down and back, to come in to chair pose. Hold for a few breaths. Then exhale, as you fold forward and straighten the legs.
Move through a vinyasa, then take 4 and 5 on the other side.
6. Ankle Stretch – Set the block up horizontally on its lowest level at the front of your mat. Step the left foot back about half way. Place the ball of the right foot on the block. Depending on how tight your calves are, you may already feel this. To intensify, start to lean forward in to the right foot. Possibly lifting the left heel from the mat, coming to tippy toes. You may even walk the left foot forward slightly. Move towards having the hips and shoulders over the block. Switch legs.
7. Seated Forward Fold – Come down to sitting. Extend the right leg out on the mat. Bring the sole of your left foot to the inside of your thigh. Dropping the left knee out to the side. Curl the right toes back towards the shin. If accessible, grab the toes. Alternatively hook a strap over the ball of the right foot. Pull the toes back towards the shin. Lengthen out the back, keeping the spine long as you fold forward. Repeat on the other leg.
Prefer to practice with auditory or visual cues. Click the video below for the full practice.
Yoga with Kassandra – Disclaimer
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