Stretch Your Feet (Part -3)

Stretch Your Feet (Part -3)

Stretch Your Feet (Part -3)

Heel That Pain

  • The Achilles tendon:

 The largest tendon in the body and perhaps one of the most debilitating if it tears.  You have heard of the mythological figure Achilles of the Trojan War.  He was said to be invulnerable in his body except for his heel. He died because of a wound to his heel.  An arrow was shot by Apollo and punctured his heel. This wound proved to be fatal.  Even the term “Achilles heel” has come to be known to describe a person's main weakness.

Injuries to the Achilles tendon are common and can be difficult to come back from. The Achilles is one of the largest and toughest tendons in the body.  It is connected to both the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscle in the calf and inserts into the heel, or calcaneus.
Excessive overuse is often the cause of Achilles problems in people and without adequate time to rest and restore it weakens and can even tear. I find that most people who suffer from low-back pain have a forward-leaning posture which puts added stress and strain on the back muscles as well as all the muscles along the backside of the body.  This forward-leaning posture causes the calf muscle to tighten and can put a lot of stress and strain on the Achilles.  Added to this the forward-leaning posture is now creating more of pronation of the foot and all this requires more muscle power and fatigue along the backside of the body all to maintain the balance.

Think about the many ways in which today people maintain this imbalanced hold on the foot.  Not just in a forward-leaning posture but I am finding as I write this the position of my feet underneath my chair up on the balls of my feet is creating a constant pull on my Achilles.  Think about all of the sports then that requires a Doris flexion and push off of the foot and the repetitive action.

Abrupt changes in muscles tension is a frequent occurrence for people, be it quick stops, starts and changes of direction, or the repeated loading of the heel when walking or running.  All these can begin to weaken the Achilles creating an environment for a serious injury.

Static and dynamic conditioning is so important to strengthen and lengthen the Achilles and attention must also be given to the muscles of the calf and the hamstrings.  Once again we see an imbalance of strength and flexibility putting too much stress sets the stage for injury. It is not all about strength or all about stretching.  It is finding a balance between the two. Overstretch and under strengthen creates imbalance, and learning to discern whether a sensation is caused by one or the other can be confusing. Is it an unease caused by muscle fatigue, or unease caused by being overstretched and lengthened?

Finding the answer to this makes more sense to me than simply changing the foundation.  The advent of postural supports, orthotics, arch supports, etc…… is not addressing the structural imbalance it is ignoring it and creating additional concerns.
You can add a few exercises to your daily practice to help prevent injury to the Achilles and begin to find a balance between strength and flexibility.  Alternating between repetitive movement and dynamic conditioning, remember  that repetitive movement will increase strength while the dynamic movement will increase endurance and help break up the connective tissue that is causing a shortening in the muscle fiber.

 Resistance Band Plantarflexion: 
  • This is a gentle exercise to start with; Hold a loop of a resistance band and use it to apply resistance as you point the foot away.

  • Seated Calf Raise Again; this is a gentle exercise but this one will strengthen the Soleus muscles. Calf Raise- Both Legs Stand on the edge of a step and lower the heels down slowly, both at the same time. Emphasize the downward phase. Reverse the movement and rise onto your tiptoes.

 Practice Balancing postures on a surface that is not firm is another great way to strengthen the ankles and the lower legs.  Close the eyes and you are in for a real proprioceptor treat.

In your yoga practice, it is important to pay attention to the flexion and extension of your feet.  Alternating between pointing the toes and extending through the heels while flexing the toes back as well as exploring the internal and external rotation of the ankle; the ankle is not a hinge joint and it is important to remember to explore its full ROM beyond the linear movement of dorsi and plantar flexion to maintain joint ease and movement.
How might your yoga expression be adapted to express the full ROM of your ankle in a more balanced way?
Do you find you get stuck on energetically extending through the heels or the ball of the big toe and the little toe?  Maybe you never point your toes.  Free up the ankle and the foot, expand and reach it to its full potential.


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