Monday, September 2, 2013

Tight Calf Muscle STRETCHES

Holy Moly are my calves tight! Throughout my pregnancy I have heard women complain about calf cramps. I naïvely thought since I stretch and practice yoga I wouldn’t have experience this painful and annoying symptom. Then at 28 weeks pregnant I woke up from sleep with a calf cramp! How could this happen to me? The yogi? Upon further investigation I realized that my calf muscles are rock hard! I read that stretching out the calves help you avoid calf cramps so I got all over that. Once I started stretching my lower leg muscles I realized how amazingly delicious it feels to stretch and the calf muscles and Achilles tendon while pregnant. Now I do at the very least one of these a day but often more. It feels so good and I don’t experience leg cramps very frequently. I think I have had a total of 3 leg cramps. They are intense.
Calf Anatomy:
The muscle group we think of as the calf is composed primarily of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius originates on the lower femur, just above the knee, and the soleus originates on the posterior surfaces of the tibia and fibula. The gastrocnemius (two headed muscle) lies under the skin of your calf, and the soleus (fish shaped) is underneath the gastrocnemius. The fibers of both muscles run down the calf and attach to the Achilles tendon, which attaches to the calcaneus, the big heel bone at the back of your foot. When the two muscles contract and shorten, they pull up on your heel, lifting it and raising your body up on tiptoe.

Poses to stretch those calves:

Table extend one leg back toes tucked on floor stretch back through heel keeping inner thighs toned and rotating up towards sky

Table leg extended ankle circles this isn’t a true calf stretch but it still feels great, reduces swelling, and does stretch out the calves. In table extend one leg straight up into the air and take your foot in an ankle circle. I will do about 15 circles in one direction and then 15 circles in the other direction.

Virasana (heroes pose) with blanket roll (this is one of my FAVORITES) with a tight blanket roll come into table put the top of your head on the floor and holding the blanket roll in each hand pull the roll up tight into your knee creases. Use your hands to help press yourself up so you are sitting back toward your heels and the blanket is smashed between your hamstrings and your calves. Stay here for a few minutes and then sit up slightly and move the blanket roll an inch toward your heels and stay here for a few minutes again move the blanket roll toward your heels and repeat until your blanket makes it all the way back to your heels. I love repeating this a few times and I will often switch and use a rolled up towel (it makes a great small tight roll, or I unroll my blanket a little bit so it’s a smaller roll). The smaller the roll the more painful precise the massage. I love this because it massages the calves and realigns the knee joints.

Uttanasana (forward fold) with blanket roll and 2 blocks I love doing this pose right after the pose above but it is good any time. With your blanket roll on the floor step onto the roll so the balls of your feet are on the roll and your heels are on the floor. The toes will want to hug the blanket but don’t let them lift them up and spread them. Take your hands to the blocks in front of the blanket so you are in a forward fold. To make this deeper put a bend in your knees, track the center of each knee over your second toes (make sure your feet are parallel) then isometrically squeeze your feet toward the midline = strong legs and inner thigh muscles. Next with your knees bent rotate your inner thighs toward the back of the room it should feel like your hips broaden and your pelvis tips forward. Now scope your tail bone just a little bit, sit bones move toward your heels belly lifts and press through your heels moving your legs toward straight. We really want this to be stretching the hamstrings and calves so if when you start to straighten your legs your low back rounds bend your knees again and work the leg alignment you will get a more effective leg stretch instead of a low back round.

Utkatasana (Chair Pose) this is a modified chair stretch. Put your hands on elbows on your thighs. Separate your feet hip distance apart, remember your hips are growing and you want to make room for your baby. Check to make sure your feet are parallel and your knees are going over your second toes. Then bend your knees like your sitting in a chair, spread your toes and reach your heels into the floor. The main thing we are after her is the calf stretch.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) very similar alignment ques as uttanasana. Bend your knees so they are tracking over your second toes. Tone your legs by isometrically drawing feet toward each other. With your thighs strong rotate your inner thighs toward the back of the room causing the sacrum to tip in and up. Then scope your tail bone just a little without flattening your back and stretch through your heels. Bicycling out the legs can feet nice here as well. I also like standing on one foot and with my lifted foot I hook my big toe and second toe around my Achilles tendon of the food on the floor and help stretch it toward earth.

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Ardha hanumanasana (1/2 splits) I like to use 2 blocks so I can get my low back to have a lumbar curve. If when you reach for the floor you lose your lumbar curve and your low back rounds then you are just stretching between the low lack vertebras and your missing out on a lot of yummy hamstring stretch action. So with hands on blocks press into front heel and back knee isometrically hug the midline, rotate inner thighs towards back of room. This will help create that lumbar curve. It can also help to bend your front knee up to your chest slightly. Once you have established the curve in your back straighten your front leg. Okay here is the calf stretch instructions. With one hand grab onto the ball of your front foot, bend your elbow toward your shin (work that bicep!) and pull the ball of the foot and toe nails toward your shin. Make sure you’re not hyper extending (which is especially easy with our lose joints in pregnancy) by pressing into your heel and drawing your heel back to you so that your knee bends up slightly.

Janusirsasana, supta padangusthasana or any pose with a strap around the ball of your foot Hook up a strap around the BALL of the foot. Hold one end of the strap in each pulling the strap into the ball of the foot as you press the ball of the foot back into the strap. The main calf stretch comes when you energetically stretch the heel away from you. Again watch for hyper extension in the knee that’s a no no.  

Calf Massage a contraindication for prenatal massage is really deep pressure on the legs, so don’t go really deep. Your muscles are probably tight enough that a light to moderate pressure will feel really deep. I think it feels good just to squeeze my calves and it feels so good to squeeze up and down the Achilles tendon. Also making circular motions from your heel up the calf to the back of the knee feels good.



Taking care of your body is important but it is even more important when you are pregnant. Tight calf muscles can lead to calf cramps, forefoot pain, heel pain, knee pain, hip pain, low back pain. So do some stretched mama to be + drink more water.

1 comment:

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