Why do ankles sometimes hurt in yoga? ….
Sometimes students experience a few aches and pains when they start doing yoga. We talk so much about the health and mind benefits – greater flexibility and muscles strength and mindfulness, it makes sense that these huge benefits might come at a bit of a cost “no pain, no gain” so to speakBut unlike our stomach or leg muscles which we typically expect or know they are likely to ache, one question that we often get asked, is why do my ankles sometimes hurt fter class?
To answer this, we look to understand the anatomy of the ankle. Your ankle is surrounded with cartilage which serves as a cushion for your joints while ligaments connect, stabilise and support your bones. According to the New York Times, about 8 million people a year have experience a sprained ankle and have repeated ankle injuries too. So although we are in Australia not the United States, we figure those statistics are probably reasonably similar here. So the starting point might be considering a previous ankle injury, even a small one, a really long time ago. If you have had an ankle injury, the neural receptors in your ligaments could have difficulty in communicating with your brain about your ankle position. Hence, you may feel a little pain or discomfort when you do certain yoga poses like sitting positions or balancing on one leg.
If you haven’t had an ankle injury, then we consider ankle strength or the way you are holding your leg. When you are balancing on one foot/leg, it’s easy for the ankle to start to wobble and feel instable, and as such you may not be engaging and lifting the arch of your foot and/or your calve and leg muscles, therefore putting too much reliance on the ankle.
You may also have tight ankles or limited flexibility in your ankles. A good way to check this is to come into Up-Dog position and look over your shoulder and see if your top of your foot if parallel with your shin or calf, effectively is it straight. If it is not, and if the foot is still flexing in towards your shin, you may have tight ankles, shins or calf muscles, which may at this time be restricting the movement. If this is the case, don’t worry – you are in the right place to stretch these areas out and improve your flexibility. And what’s great is that now you know what to work on and perhaps spend a bit longer in positions that target these muscles.
The last thing to consider, when reviewing your ankle aches, is whether you are ‘pushing yourself too far’ and if you need to back off a little bit. It’s easy to push yourself in Yoga and in fact, while on one hand it is a good thing to push yourself to your edge (because that’s how you know where your edge is) it’s important to back off if you feel any pain. Discomfort is good, but pain is bad. It’s also important to work to the level you feel is right for that day, and be kind to yourself. So forget yesterday and see how you feel today. And work to THAT level.
So here are our top tips to work on those ankles and ease through that ankle pain and aches you may feel:
- Be aware of past injuries and have a chat to your Yoga Teacher about them. Your teacher will advise you of some adjustments or alternatives or stretches that may suit you.
- Know Your Body – and do a few warm up exercises on your sensitive or tight areas before starting your yoga practice. Try,
- Point and Flex your toes – while seated on the floor, point and flex your toes
- Inversion and Eversion – you bring the soles of your feet towards each other and press them away
- Rotation – do some simple circles with your ankles and move them in both directions
Remember, Yoga is intended to create harmony between our body and mind and we should be gentle and caring to our bodies. Get to know your body, the tight bits, the imperfect bits, and work out which positions (both strength and stretch positions) challenge you the most. Those are the positions you should spend a few more breaths in…..to strengthen the weak areas and balance out your body. Take care of yourself.
We are Yoga Everyday, Stafford, a reasonably new Yoga studio who are working hard to make yoga accessible to everyday people. We welcome and encourage all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and fitness levels to come and long. We have a wide range of teachers who bring different backgrounds, experience and qualifications to their yoga classes offering you a varied experience. We like to talk a lot about the body, what muscles and bits we are targeting in each position, which is a great way to get to know your body and see improvements quickly.