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Virasana, or Hero Pose, effectively stretches your ankles.
Although people tend to overlook care for the ankles, it is very important to keep them supple and flexible to avoid risk of injury during exercise and enhance performance of physical activities. Yoga poses that directly affect your ankles help them to become stronger, more flexible and properly aligned.
Several standing poses can help you strengthen your ankles and practice proper alignment. Trikonasana, or Triangle Pose, and Utthita Parvakonasana, or Extended Side Angle Pose, stretch and strengthen your ankles as well as the muscles attached to your ankles. Both poses involve placing your feet about 3 feet from each other while leaning your body laterally and stretching the hand closer to your leg to the floor while keeping your other hand overhead. In Trikonasana, keep your legs straight, while in Utthita Parvakonasana, bend your front leg. Both poses place a small amount of pressure on your ankles as you stretch them.
A very simple seated pose that benefits your ankles is Sukhasana, or Easy Pose, where your legs are crossed while sitting. The pose stretches both your knees and ankles, providing flexibility in your lower legs. A more difficult variation is Padmasana, or Lotus Pose, where your legs are folded so that your ankles rest on your thighs. Do this pose only if you are an advanced practitioner, but it is very effective in stretching the outer sides of your ankles. Virasana, or Hero Pose, where your seat is placed on your heels, deeply stretches your ankles. Do not attempt this pose if you have an ankle injury or no prior yoga experience. Sitting on a block or a folded blanket in Virasana will take uncomfortable pressure off of your ankles.
Kneeling and Squatting Poses
An effective pose for stretching your ankles is Malasana, or Garland Pose, which involves squatting and wrapping your hands around your ankles. This pose stretches the back of your ankles and strengthens the front; you can modify it by using a chair or block for balancing. An intense ankle stretch is Ustrasana, or Camel Pose. In this pose, bring your hands to the heels in a knee stand, which stretches the entire front of your body from your ankles to your neck. Balasana, or Child's Pose, is a very gentle ankle stretch that you can perform at any time during a yoga practice to rest, relieve stress and calm your brain. For this pose, kneel and lay you body on your thighs.
If you are new to yoga or have very stiff ankles, progress gradually with ankle stretching and strengthening poses. Protect your knees during ankle stretches, as they contain the joints directly above the ankles and are directly affected by these poses. If you have experienced an ankle or knee injury in the past or have extremely sensitive knees or ankles, practice the poses only under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher to learn proper alignment.