Most people know by now that stretching the muscles before exercising is key to a safe athletic experience, and yet the ankles are often ignored -- strange, considering an ankle sprain is the most common type of sports injury. Many yoga poses can help protect your ankles, increasing strength, balance and flexibility so sprains are less likely to occur.
Mountain pose is a standing pose that strengthens the ankles, knees and thighs, while also reducing flat feet. To get into the pose, start with your feet close together, your heels just barely apart. Lift your toes and spread them out onto the floor, distributing your weight evenly on the inner and outer sections of your feet. Drop your tailbone toward the floor, slide your shoulder blades down your back, and let your arms hang strongly by your sides with your palms facing forward. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
Lotus pose is a sitting pose that stretches both the ankles and the knees. If you have tight hips, you may wish to prepare for the pose by bringing your knee up toward your armpit and rotating it around a few times. Start sitting evenly on your sit bones with your legs out in front of you. Place your left foot on top of your right thigh, and your right foot on top of your left thigh, keeping your heels close to your abdomen and the soles of your feet facing upward. The knees should touch the floor. Hold the pose for a few seconds. After you have tried the pose a few times, hold for one minute.
Also called a yogic squat, garland pose stretches the ankles while also toning the abdomen. To get into the pose, squat down on the floor with your feet about hip-width apart. Your feet should face outward at about a 45-degree angle. If you can't keep your heels pressed to the floor, put a folded mat or blanket under them. Your knees should face the same direction as your ankles to prevent possible injury. Press your hands together in prayer position as you isometrically push your elbows into your knees and lift your heart upward. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
Hero pose is a sitting pose that stretches and strengthens the ankles. Start in a kneeling position with your feet a little more than hip distance apart and the tops of your feet pressing down on the floor. Sit down on the floor between your feet and slide your shoulders down your back. If you can't comfortably sit on the floor, place a yoga block under your butt for support. Sit up straight, with your sternum lifted, and rest your hands on top of your thighs. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute. You may eventually wish to hold the pose as long as five minutes.
Michelle Wishhart is a writer based in Portland, Ore. She has been writing professionally since 2005, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for City on a Hill Press, an alternative weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, Calif. An avid gardener, Wishhart worked as a Wholesale Nursery Grower at Encinal Nursery for two years. Wishhart holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts and English literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.