As a runner, I know what having tight calf muscles is like. Calf muscles are used a lot during running so without proper stretching they tend to get very tight. Running isn’t the only thing that can make your calves tight—other exercises or even wearing high heels can cause tightness. When I started practicing yoga I took careful note of the poses that helped me get the best calf stretches and incorporated them into my home routine. Here, I’m sharing my top 5 yoga poses that are calf stretches. I hope they help you if you have tight calves, too!
Disclaimer: I am a yoga teacher, but I’m not your yoga teacher. Always practice yoga mindfully and if you have any questions, consult with your teacher.
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Warrior I has always been a good calf stretch for me. When I first started taking yoga my teachers would tell me to widen my stance until they got to know me and understood that my calves are too tight to have the very wide stance that some yogis can achieve. For me, the key to a good calf stretch is to make sure that my hips are square to the front of the room, even if that means bringing my feet closer together. My back toes are turned at a 45 degree angle, which helps achieve the calf stretch as well.
Gorilla is one of my favorite yoga poses for stretching calves. The forward fold gives me a good stretch in the hamstrings, but I love Gorilla because lifting up my toes really gives me a good calf stretch. It’s okay to bend your knees as much as you need to in this pose to make sure you’re not straining any muscles.
Downward facing dog is probably the best known yoga pose that stretches the calves. You can see progress over time by paying attention how close you can get your heels to your mat. Warming up the legs by bending the knees can help you get your heels a little closer if you’re feeling stiff.
This variation of a seated forward bend is a perfect stretch for the calves. To engage the calf muscles more, I’m using a strap to pull back on my toes. Here, I’m worrying less about folding forward and more about flexing my foot to get in the good calf stretch.
Eagle pose is less of a traditional calf stretch than the other poses, but it does stretch the calves a bit and really stretches the Achilles tendon, which runs from the calf to the heel. If the Achilles is nice and limber, it will pull less on the calf muscle, helping the calves to not feel as tight.
Yogis: any poses I’m missing?
Runners: what’s your favorite calf stretch?
What muscles do you love stretching after exercising?