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Stretches for your calves are important components of any yoga practice.
Many people neglect their calves during regular stretching and exercise routines, yet they are one of the most important muscles in your body. Your calves help you walk, run, lift and perform a variety of everyday activities. But over time, tight calves can become shortened and affect your ability to perform these activities without pain or strain. Performing specific yoga postures may help stretch and lengthen your calves, improve your range of motion at your ankle and help you perform other yoga poses with greater ease, says yoga instructor Julie Gudmestad in an article for "Yoga Journal."
Downward-facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is one of the most commonly-performed poses in many yoga classes. In addition to stretching your calves, this posture also helps reduce tension in your spine, alleviates back pain and insomnia and strengthens your arms, shoulders and back, according to MyYogaOnline. To perform this pose, start on your hands and knees with your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Spread your fingers apart and tuck your toes under. Inhale, then on the exhale, press your hands and feet into the floor, straighten your legs and raise your tailbone toward the ceiling. Don't lock your elbows. Expand your chest and keep your neck long. Press your heels into the floor. If your hamstrings or calves are very tight, keep your knees slightly bent until your level of flexibility improves.
Standing Forward Bend
The Standing Forward Bend, or Uttanasana, is a simple yet effective pose for stretching your calves, strengthening your legs, calming the mind and releasing tension in the back, according to Robert J. Kiltz, MD in an article for CNY Healing Arts. To perform this pose, start by standing with your big toes together and heels slightly apart. Align your head and neck with your spine and relax your shoulders. Inhale, and on an exhale, bend forward from your hips. Keep your knees as straight as possible, bending them if you need to. Rest your hands on your shins, ankles or the floor. Relax your upper body. Try to stretch a bit further on every exhalation.
The Chair, or Utkatasana, is a pose that can help strengthen your calves and stretches your shoulders and chest, according to "Yoga Magazine." To perform this pose, start with your big toes together and your heels slightly apart. On an inhale, raise your arms straight up over your head. Exhale and bend your knees, coming in to a squat that might feel like you're about to sit down into an invisible chair. Your knees should be slightly ahead of your feet and your thighs should come as close to parallel with the floor as possible. Expand your chest. Contract your abdominal muscles to maintain balance and to avoid tilting your pelvis forward.
Reclining Big Toe
The Reclining Big Toe, or Supta Padangusthasana, is a pose that encourages relaxation and can help alleviate tension in your calves and hamstrings, according to yoga instructor Jason Crandell in an article for "Yoga Journal." To perform this pose, lie on your back with your knees bent, and have a yoga strap nearby. Inhale and draw your right knee into your chest. Wrap the strap around the arch of your right foot. Hold the ends of the strap in each hand. Straighten your right leg straight up toward the ceiling, or as straight as is comfortable for you, and extend your left leg flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders and chest relaxed -- don't crunch up. If your legs are very tight, release tension on the strap and bend your knee slightly. Repeat on the left leg.