A common area of complaint among athletes, jumpers, gymnasts, long-distance travelers, and others, Achilles Tendonitis is the micro-tearing and inflammation of the Achilles tendons. When overused or overstretched, they tear and cause pain, swelling, and heat. The injury happens from an abrupt movement of the tendons or during an accident.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you are well aware of the health benefits of yoga, with numerous poses and stretches that help relax these tendons without exerting too much pressure on them. Yoga also helps build the strength and flexibility you need in your feet, calves, and ankles to cope with any activity that involves the overuse of Achilles’ tendons.
Yoga For Achilles Tendonitis – A Complete Guide
Tendons are tough fibers connecting bones and muscles, primarily at joints. The Achilles tendon is located at the back of your lower leg connecting your bones of the heel to the calf muscle. It plays a critical role in leg function and an injury to the tendon can affect the mobility of the foot. Such an injury is caused when performing repetitive activities that involve flexing the tendons.
Achilles Tendonitis can also be caused due to tension or weakness in the tendon leading to overwhelming when put to too much work all of a sudden. Weakness of the foot arch or flat foot, too tight arches, and tight calves are also sometimes responsible for such a condition. Building flexibility, range of movement, and strength allows proper dropping of the heel and avoid injury during intensive activities.
Those who have rested for at least six weeks after an injury and those looking to build strength to avoid injuries can engage in these yoga poses for flexing feet and ankles.
Chair Flexing Foot Pose
One of the best yoga poses for Achilles tendonitis, chair flexing is a warm-up pose that prepares the body for yoga sequences that work on feet and hamstrings. This pose is done in a sitting position and is ideal for those who are recovering from an injury. You can introduce variations to the pose gradually as you are ready to bear more stretch.
This advanced balancing pose requires balancing on one foot with a forward bend. The leg that holds the posture works on tightening the hamstrings and calves to tone the muscles and give them strength.
In this pose, the body is stretched deep just as a tiger does upon waking up. It is done on your fours stretching the spine to its maximum and keeping the thighs and hips open. It is a great balancing pose that awakens the whole body and keeps the joints and tendons fit and flexible.
Can Yoga Cause Achilles Tendonitis?
Relying too much on a specific joint without using the surrounding muscles exerts excessive pressure on the tendons and can cause tendonitis. Yoga poses like planks, downward dog, chaturanga and others that involve holding the weight in the lower leg can increase the chances of Achilles Tendonitis if you are not aware about how to use the muscles in your feet.
There are several yoga poses that activate the Achilles tendons, for example, stretching the heels in downward dog. If you don’t have an injury of tendons, yoga poses can help you strengthen your calves and tendons to prevent any damage. But if you have a torn tendon, these poses can put more strain on the tissues and worsen the condition. Tight or weak calf muscles also increase the risk of developing this condition.
If you feel any pain after yoga practice, you should stop doing the activity. Yoga can still be practiced during a tendon injury, but the poses are modified. You should keep your heel from stretching to avoid worsening your injury. A torn tendon means you need to do your yoga in a chair until you heal. Once healed, you can do seated poses on a mat and then gradually ease into standing poses.
Downward Dog For Achilles Tendonitis
Downward dog or Adho Mukha Shvanasana is a great whole-body strengthening and awakening stretch that focuses on Achilles tendons. To do this yoga pose, press the hands to the floor and stretch the legs in a comfortable position drawing in the stomach to create a ‘V’ upside down with the body.
It might not be possible for you to get the feet flat which should not be a problem. You can then walk the dog by stretching alternating knees to loosen the hamstrings and calves. This pose provides amazing stretch in the calves, hamstrings, and Achilles tendons. As you start building flexibility, you can work more towards getting the feet flat on the floor but remember not to strain.
Best Stretches For Achilles Tendon
The use of stretches is one of the best ways to prevent Achilles tendon injury. Yoga is a great tool to stretch and strengthen this tendon and regular stretches can help keep the tendon strong and avoid injuries. Here are the best stretches you can try to improve the flexibility and strength of your lower legs and get a more stable and strong Achilles tendon.
Garland Pose (Malasana)
This asana is also known as the yogi squat and is an excellent stretch for the back, Achilles, groin, and ankles. To do this pose, keep the feet shoulder-width apart or to the side of the mat with toes out and heels in line. Then, slowly squat down and bring the palms together near your chest, keeping the torso firm and back straight. As you progress, you can increase the intensity of this pose by pressing the elbow into the inner thighs. Inhale and exhale during the pose to relax into flexibility.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
This stretch is great for the strength and flexibility of the Achilles tendons. In this pose, the ankle of the weight-bearing leg works hard to keep the muscles balanced, thereby strengthening small muscles in the lower leg and creating strength for Achilles tendons.
As the pose is challenging, it should be started slowly at just a few seconds and the duration can be increased gradually. See that you keep the weight distributed evenly on the foot and your hip straight. It is the wrapping of the leg that creates the stretch working deeply into the connective tissues.
Whether you are looking to recover from Achilles tendonitis or want to lower the risk of tendon injury from physical activities and exercises, a well-planned yoga routine that includes the right poses and stretches can help build strength and flexibility in your tendons and feet muscles.