The calves consist of two muscles in the lower leg: the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle. These are two of the strongest muscles in the entire body. Your calves carry tremendous weight every day as you walk, sit and run. This can cause the muscles to shorten and become tight, limiting the range of motion in your ankles. There are many yoga poses that stretch the calves, relieving soreness and helping to keep muscles healthy and supple.
Standing Forward Bend
Standing Forward Bend stretches the calves as well as the hamstrings and hips. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on hips. Bend forward from your hips, lengthening your upper body straight for as long as you can until you drape forward. Touch the floor with your finger tips if you can, and relax your neck so that your head hangs heavily with no strain. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
High Lunge is an active pose that stretches the calves and the groin. From Standing Forward Bend, step your left foot back to form a lunge position. Bend your right knee so that your knee is over your ankle. Maintaining your leverage, position your torso over your right thigh and touch your fingers down to the floor for support. Throughout the pose, stretch your left heel down toward the floor, activating a stretch in your calf muscles. Switch sides.
Reclining Big Toe Pose
Reclining Big Toe pose is a deep calf, leg and hip stretch that also strengthens the knees. You will need a yoga strap or belt, unless you are very flexible. Lie on your back on the floor, with your legs out in front of you. Bend your left knee and bright it up to your torso. Put a strap around the ball of your left foot, holding one end of the strap in each hand, and extend your leg toward the ceiling. Press up through the heel, keeping your shoulders pressed against the floor. Switch sides.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog is one of the foundations of yoga. The pose stretches the calves, legs and shoulders while strengthening both the arms and legs. Start on all fours, with your knees below your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Tuck your toes and push back from the floor, stretching your heels downward. Your heels will not generally touch the floor unless you are very flexible. Keep your fingers spread wide, and press evenly into your hands to keep pressure off your wrists.
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.