We all have an Achilles’ heel. That one spot on our body that nags at us, causes pain, reminds us each time we run that it’s there; be it a tight hamstring, a tweaked knee, or a wonky ankle. But what happens when your Achilles’ heel is actually your Achilles tendon?
That was the question posed on Facebook last week from one reader in response to my IT band stretches article. She mentioned having a very sore Achilles tendon and requested some stretches to help loosen it up so she could get back out there. And she’s not the only one — several of our readers have mentioned the Achilles as their nagging pain.
Not one to shy away from offering yoga advice, I put together a set of stretches targeting the Achilles’ tendon.
One thing to note before we begin: there is a big difference between Achilles tendinitis, which is a soreness or tightness of the tendon, and an Achilles rupture, which is a tear of the tendon, usually from overstretching. If you have — or suspect you have — an Achilles rupture, speak to your doctor before trying any of these poses as they may do more harm then good.
Downward facing dog
This is one of the most basic poses in yoga but it has many amazing benefits. It not only helps stretch the calves and hamstrings but it also lengthens the Achilles tendon in the process. What’s nice about this pose is you adjust the stretch to varying degrees by how far you draw your heels toward the ground. For more of a stretch, draw the heels closer to the ground, for less, let them hang in the air.
For the complete step-by-step on how to come into down dog, check out yoga poses for calves.
Malasana is also called a yogi squat. It can be an intense pose the longer you hold it, it’s one of my favorites. Malasana targets the groins, thighs and hips. It also gets deeply into the Achilles tendon.
- To begin, take your feet about the width of a yoga mat. Turn your toes out and your heels in.
- Separate your thighs as you bend your knee out to the sides, drawing your butt toward the ground but not on it. Try to keep your heels on the floor. If they don’t reach, roll a towel under your heels for support or sit up on a block.
- Bring your hands together in front of your heart, drawing your triceps into your inner thighs. Use the leverage of your triceps into your thigh to lift the heart and straighten the back.
- Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- To come out, straighten the knees and turn the toes forward.
If Malasana is one of my favorites, utkatasana is one of my least. Also called chair pose, utkatasana is a challenging pose that relies on a lot of leg strength. However, if done properly, it can also offer a nice stretch through the backs of the calves and down into the Achilles tendon.
- To start, bring your big toes to touch, your heels can be slightly apart.
- On an inhale, lift your arms overhead as you bend your knees and sink the hips down, like you’re sitting in a chair.
- Look down at your feet, if you can’t see your toes, shift some weight into your heels.
- Lengthen through both sides of the waist and lift the heart.
- Hold here for 10 breaths, then release to a forward fold.
- I usually teach 2-3 rounds of utkatasana throughout class so feel free to repeat this pose for another 10 breaths two more times, just remember not to hold your breath.
I hope these poses help with any Achilles tendon issues anyone may be having! If any of you have other body parts you’d like poses for, I’m always here to help.
Photos and article by Lisa Horvath.
Related: WalkJogRun guide to Yoga for Runners