Updated: May 20, 2021
Tight calves can be a real pain…
Foot cramps, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, calf cramps can all be caused by tight calf muscles. Runners, sport enthusiasts or even if you wear high heel shoes, your calves are going to love you for this stretch. As I say to my students when we practice this in class: hate me now, love me later…this can just be one of those kind of stretches.
Remember to also drink a glass of water, muscle cramps can be caused by dehydration.
I have seen some people do a similar pose while standing on a stair edge; and while I agree you can certainly stretch the calf muscle in this manner, there is no where near as much control, and therefore relief, as practicing with the following support…
You will need something of equal and firm height to place under the balls of the feet (* ie. yoga blocks, thick hardcover books, our daughter uses a curb when out and she needs this stretch) and something stable you can pull yourself towards (ie. couch, kitchen counter, half wall) *unfortunately, canned foods do not work for height, modern cans collapse under the weight
Place your ‘height’ length wise along the wall or support (or even in front of the back of a chair if the items won’t slip). Have them wide enough to accommodate hip width distance
The balls of the feet press fully and equally onto the items of height, heels press down into the floor, inner heel and outer heel equally
Bring the pelvis towards the chair or counter in front of you, do not lift the heels, legs are straight
Lift the chest up away from the abdomen
Stay here for 20-30 secs, take a break and repeat. Build up the amount of time spent in the pose, don’t over do the stretch
Causes too much pain - if you have especially tight calves, this is a very intense stretch. Practice one foot at a time. Another option is to reduce the height placed under the balls of the feet, working towards increasing the height over time.
I’m not feeling any real stretch in my calves - you may just be a lucky individual that doesn’t have tight calf muscles BUT before you walk away, make sure you’re giving your body the best benefit: do you have at least a few inches of height under the balls of the feet (3" yoga blocks are used in the photos above) and are you bringing your hips over your heels (not behind), move those hips forward!
Just can’t bring your hips over your heels - baby steps…the answer is not to bend your knees, keep your legs straight and using the force of pulling yourself towards your toe side, work towards lengthening the calves muscles. Try at least three times and a couple times a week, it will become easier
How it helps:
Why having the heel press into something makes a difference - standing on the edge of a stair and extending the heel down into thin air gives no feed back if each heel is extending equally, one heel and hip will often dip lower. There is also no feedback on the inner heel, are you actually extending the inner heels equally?
Bringing the pelvis forward - keeping the legs straight and bringing the pelvis forward helps to get more deeply into the calves. You can cheat yourself and not bother to go that extra step but why only stretch the foot?
Creating a healthier body can be overwhelming...
Taking one moment at a time to relieve an ache or pain can make a goal more achievable, and worth your time.
Wishing you great health, Tanya
Tanya is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher based out of Abbotsford, BC Canada. She has been teaching since 2015, strictly online since March 2020. Tanya volunteers her time as a board member for the BKS Iyengar Yoga Association Vancouver. Her greatest joy is being able to help discover movement.