I don’t know about you, but I have a real problem with the calves of my legs! They tighten up and it feels like the muscles and tendons shorten up by about two inches every night. I battle with Fibromyalgia and my legs really take the brunt of it. Waking up with a positive attitude is tough to do when your body doesn’t want to cooperate. So, I went on a mission to find the yoga stretches focused on lengthening out those calf muscles and give me back the freedom to move.
I spent a lot of years waiting tables, so my legs got quite a workout everyday. Since I’ve changed things up and now spend my day (and half my nights!) at a desk, my legs don’t get the exercise they used to- and it’s starting to be very apparent in how they feel every day. Downward Dog is great for the calves, but some days I can’t even get my calves to stretch out for Downward Dog without getting a charlie horse! On those days, I need something that loosens my calves a little before I move into a pose with a full calf stretch. I think many of us are familiar with the image of a runner leaning against the wall, stretching out before the big run. Well, it just so happens that works equally well before Downward Dog!
To get the appropriate stretch in your hamstrings and loosen up the calf muscle as well, face the wall and place your hands flat against it at shoulder height. Bring one leg behind you about 2 or 3 feet, with your foot flat on the floor and your toes pointed straight forward. Now let your weight rest forward over your front leg, but keep your back knee straight and your heel flat on the floor. This will stretch the big muscle at the back of your calf (the gastrocnemius.) When you bend your back knee, with your foot still flat on the floor, you stretch the smaller muscle underneath the gastrocnemius or the soleus muscle. Now straighten out the front leg and bend the back knee. Let your head drop down, so the top of your head is facing the wall. Drop into the front leg so you stretch it as it pulls back. Repeat the forward, then backward stretches two or three times. Breathe deeply, slowly and evenly as you hold each stretch for two to three breaths. Switch legs and repeat.
The key to this wall assist calf stretch is to let the muscle stretch on its own. DON’T bounce, just lean into the wall and let the muscle do the stretching.
Once I warm up my calf muscles with this stretch, I find it much easier to do the Downward Dog and my other positions. I also use the calf stretch throughout my day when my muscles feel tight. It only takes a minute, but it helps me feel better for hours.
Give this wall assist calf stretch a try the next time your aching calves make YOU feel like a cow!
See you next time!