In this post, we'll review the muscles that plantarflex and dorsiflex the ankles and go over a few modification that will accommodate tight dorsiflexors. We've also included a video from one of the recent ASFYT-3 classes where we offer a strategy that might help prevent cramping when coming into the pose, as well as how to fold the blankets for our favorite modification.
Before going any further here's a simplified anatomy review of some of the muscles that we'll be talking about. The dorsiflexors of the ankle include the tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus and extensor hallucis longus. These muscles are all located on the anterior aspect of the leg and attach distally on the medial arch of the foot, the big toe and toes 2-5 (respectively).
If the muscles that dorsiflex the ankle are tight, plantarflexion will be limited and a posture like Virasana will be uncomfortable or even painful. In addition, the effort to plantarflex the feet against the resistance of the tight dorsiflexors could result in a cramp in one of the plantarflexors, which is frequently experienced in the medial arch of the foot (where tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior attach).
A common modification is to place a rolled blanket underneath the ankles, but there are a few potential problems with this set-up:
- the roll can press uncomfortably into the ankles and restrict circulation,
- a roll under the ankles effectively increases the amount of knee flexion, which will increase the stretch on the quadriceps and may cause discomfort in the knees, and
- when using a rolled blanket under the ankles in combination with sitting on a block placed between the feet, it's difficult to position the front edge of the block directly below the sitz bones (the roll and block will tend to be too far forward)
Check out and practice all three of the modification shown below and see what you think!
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