Calf muscles are usually invisible to most people because you rarely notice them until they hurt or become too stiff. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time on your feet, by the end of the day, your legs are bound to experience fatigue. Giving your calf muscles and legs a good stretch regularly can help them relax and recover from the daily load, a.k.a. your body weight, which they need to carry. Here are 6 yoga poses which can help stretch out those still calf muscles. If you’re new to yoga, it’s always best to start under the supervision of a certified teacher.
1. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog)
Begin in Tabletop Pose, on hands and knees, with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists, and your hips stacked directly over your knees.
Take a look down at your hands. Ensure that the creases of the wrists are parallel to the short edge of the mat, that the fingers are spread wide, and that the weight is distributed evenly through the palms and the knuckles, particularly of the pointer and middle finger.
On an exhale, tuck your toes under and begin to slowly extend the legs, lifting the hips up high toward the ceiling. Keep the knees bent for as long as you need to here in order to maintain the length along the spine.
Continue lifting the hips high and back, and press the tops of your thighs toward the back of the room. Keep your ears in line with your arms, and firm up through the upper outer arm.
Remain in Downward-Facing Dog for three deep breaths, creating space in the legs and drawing the heels closer to the ground.
On an inhale, extend your right leg up high and back, lifting it up toward the ceiling. Avoid the tendency to tilt the pelvis and open up through the hips immediately in an effort to lift the leg as high as possible; rather, keep the hips level with one another and the right foot flexed (with the heel reaching back and the toes pointing down toward the ground).
Stay in the pose for five to ten breaths, then slowly square off the hips and lower the extended leg on an exhale. Gently walk out the legs in Downward-Facing Dog, then repeat on the other side.
2. Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Splits)
Begin in Downward-Facing Dog, with the palms firmly grounded and the hips lifting up high and back. Take a few breaths here, bending the knees and lifting the heels to open up through the back of the legs.
On an exhale, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower down onto your left knee and release the top of the left foot on the ground.
Flex your right foot, coming up onto the heel and extending your toes back toward you, and begin to straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can.
Keep your hips square and stacked over your left knee. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and as you exhale, begin to fold over your right leg.
Find the action of energetically drawing your right heel back while reaching your chest forward, and draw your shoulder blades down your back and away from your ears.
Remain in the pose for 5 to 10 breaths. To come out of the pose, tuck the left toes under, plant the palms, and make your way back into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side whenever you feel ready.
3. Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
To start, stand on the knees with the lower legs together and stretched backward, the two big toes crossing each other.
Lower your body and sit on your heels. Your buttocks will be resting on the heels and the thighs on the calf muscles.
Keep your hands on your knees and keep the head straight. Concentrate on the breath and observe the process of inhalation and exhalation.
Remain in this position for at least 5 to 10 minutes. In the initial stages, you may experience pain or discomfort in the legs when you sit in this position.
When that happens, undo the asana and stretch your legs. Massage the ankles, knees and calf muscles with your hand. With practice, you can go up to 30 minutes in this position.
4. Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)
From a standing position, step the inside of your left foot directly behind your right foot about 6-8 inches, as if you are standing on a balance beam. Back foot is angled.
As you inhale reach both arms high overhead, lengthening your spine. As you exhale slowly reach hands down to shin or the floor. You can slightly bend the front knee if needed.
Let your chest rest over your front leg and relax the back of your neck. Breath slowly as you stretch your hamstring. Hold 30 seconds and switch sides.
5. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Begin standing in Mountain pose (Tadasana), with the feet parallel and separated hip distance apart.
Place your hands on your hips and inhale to reach the crown of the head up toward the ceiling and find length along the spine.
On your next exhale, begin to hinge at the hips and fold forward over the legs, bringing the torso to flow over the legs like a waterfall.
Allow the head to hang heavy. Either let the arms softly hang or take a hold of opposite elbows to deepen the sensation. If it feels comfortable, you can also bring the fingertips to the ground, or press the palms against the calves to move even deeper.
Shift your weight slightly forward into the balls of your feet and notice how that changes the sensation in your hamstrings.
To come out of the pose, take a slight bend in the knees and place the hands on the hips. With the core engaged, inhale to find a flat back and exhale all the way up to stand.
6. Supta Padangusthasana (Supine Calf Stretch)
Lie on your back, legs extended, feet flexed pressing out through the heels.
On an exhalation draw the right knee into your chest, loop a strap around the arch of the right foot, or hook your first two fingers around your big toe if you have the flexibility.
Straighten and extend the right leg up to the ceiling until the arms are straight keeping shoulders pressing on the floor.
Keep strongly extending through the left leg pressing the top of the left thigh down (with your hand) and extend through the right heel creating a comfortable stretch in the back of the leg.
Stay here or turn the right leg out and bring the leg down towards the floor on your right side. Keep the left hip grounded to the floor rather than bringing your leg further out. Stay in each variation for 5 breaths or up to three minutes. Repeat on the other side.