Strengthen Your Ankles

foot health

STRENGTHEN YOUR ANKLES

Our feet are the foundation of our bodies. Placing great emphasis on creating ankle stability and mobility during our asana practice should be obvious; unfortunately, this is not always the case. Maintaining a regular practice can help us greatly benefit in this area of the body, even when we’re not specifically focusing on our feet. The simple nature of the practice exposes us to a variety of movements in the ankle joints. It’s up to us, however, to be intentional about incorporating specific actions to strengthen our ankles.

The question is how we can incorporate these actions and techniques. What we’ll see in today’s video is how Matt seamlessly integrates techniques into common postures. These techniques not only translate into a more challenging arm balance but also serve to help us to minimize ankle injuries.

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ANATOMY OF THE ANKLES

In order to strengthen our ankles and create a “corset of support,” it’s helpful to understand the muscles we are affecting with each action. There are 4 actions of the ankle: dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, inversion, and eversion.  Although Matt touches on each one of these, our focus for today is on inversion and eversion. Everting the ankle helps activate the fibularis muscles (outer shin). There are 3 fibularis muscles (2 that attach into the outer foot and 1 that is more towards the front of the outer ankle). 

The tibialis posterior (along the back side of the calf) helps invert the ankle. This muscle runs along the back of the shinbone, or tibia, and opposes the fibularis muscles. Matt refers to these two muscles as the “bootstrap” muscles, which help stabilize the ankle.

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STRENGTHEN YOUR ANKLES TO MINIMIZE INJURY: IMPLEMENT KEY TECHNIQUES IN FAMILIAR YOGA POSTURES

PREVENTING POTENTIAL INJURIES

If you’ve ever experienced an ankle sprain or the pain of plantar fasciitis, you’ll be glad to know that the techniques from this video can be extremely helpful in preventing these types of injuries.

The outer ligaments of the ankles are smaller and less powerful compared to the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. Due to the increased vulnerability of the outer ankle, more sprains happen here. There are 2 tendons that run under the ligaments that help the ligaments keep the ankle in place. To make sure the ligaments have the support they need, it’s imperative to strengthen the muscles of fibularis. It is equally important to strengthen the muscles that support inversion, to help prevent the collapsing of the inner arch.  

If plantar fasciitis is an issue, we want to work on the sole of the foot, in order to reduce strain.  

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ANKLE ACTIONS

What are the techniques and how can we implement them?

In the video, Matt takes us through exactly how to evert and invert the ankles via a supported Forward Fold. What we gain here is the understanding of how the actions of simultaneously pressing into the big toe (and big toe mound) and the pinky toe create inversion, activating the targeted muscle groups. The band of stability that is created is what strengthens our ability to balance our side-to-side movement. Matt goes on to demonstrate how this can be applied to familiar postures. In Warrior II, for example, we see how the articulation of the toes can have a greater impact on the external rotation of the hip, which supports the journey towards Flying Pigeon. He also includes the articulations of the ankles in a Pyramid Pose variation, a Figure Four preparation, and an Ardha Chandrasana drill.

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INTENTION

Ultimately, it’s up to us to engage in movements on our mat that may be “less enticing.” The result of the actions described above is that we benefit from an expanded exploration on our yoga mats and from increased foot health and strength for our everyday activities. It’s up to us to be very intentional about our actions. This connects well to a lesson Matt teaches in his 300 Hour Teacher Training about Abhyasa (well-placed effort). The precise movements of the ankles and toes require well-placed thought and effort when focusing on them in a given yoga posture.

Overall, we can also take time to consider the intention of our asana practice. What is our intention in a given practice? What are our intentions overall? These are concepts that will be explored in Matt’s upcoming Pose Factory and Yoga Teacher Trainings

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Mobility Immersion

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