Working on your balance now while you're young will serve you well as you age. Your ankles, while not the main predictors of whether you topple over from a strong gust of wind, do act in concert with your legs, feet, hips, pelvis and back to keep you upright. So schedule these exercises that both strengthen and stretch your ankles into your workout routine at least three to four days a week to help get and keep your balance.
Stand sideways next to a wall with your feet together for the leg portion of Eagle's pose. This yoga asana is classified as a balancing posture and works both ankles at the same time, but in different ways. If you're not sure of your balance, hold onto the wall for support with one hand. Lift the toes of your left foot off the floor; spread the toes and then settle them back onto the floor. Balance your weight evenly on all four “corners” of your foot. Bend your left knee slightly. Lift your right foot off the floor and cross your right leg over top your left leg. Hook the toes of your right foot behind your left calf; and keep the toes pointed down throughout. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Sit on a chair or bench that's high enough so that your upper legs are parallel to the floor when seated and so that your feet sit comfortably flat on the floor. Either wear shoes or bare feet. Lift the toes of both feet off the ground at once. Hold for five seconds. Lower your toes and then lift your heels off the floor both at the same time. Hold for five seconds and then lower your heels. Perform up to 30 reps of the entire maneuver.
Stand with your feet together and then lower down into a squat with your knees spread wider than your torso. If your heels come off the floor, slip a folded towel underneath them. Settle the outsides of your elbows against the insides of your knees and then press your hands together. Stay in this position for up to one minute. Over time, as your ankles get used to the stretch, you could ease up on the number of folds in your towel.
Stand behind a straight-backed chair with a wobble board between your feet. Hold onto the back of the chair as one place your left foot on the left side of the wobble board and then hoist your right foot onto the right side. Lengthen and strengthen the front and back of your ankles by flexing them forward and back on the wobble board up to five times. Perform the same maneuver side to side to lengthen and strengthen the outside of your ankles.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.