The pain was IMMENSE!
It felt like I was tearing something or at least breaking something.
Eyes clinched, teeth gritted, the pain was insane.
And all I was doing was sitting on my feet.
Yep, just sitting on the floor, on my feet.
This is how inflexible my ankles were. To sit on the floor any other way other than feet out in front was just unbearable.
I don’t know why I was embarrassed about it.
Maybe it’s because it should have been a simple task. I could do muscles ups, clean 80kg but I couldn’t sit on my bloody feet!
Then it got me thinking. Is this a sign that at the tender age of 31, my body is already showing signs of deteriorating?
No, can’t be…really?...
Nah, I wasn’t having it!
What’s the big deal?
You might scoff and say this is a pretty simple problem you can live with.
But not having the range of motion in your ankles is just calling for an injury.
All it takes is one slip on the edge of the pavement or something unsteady under the foot for your ankle to be damaged.
Going for a run or playing a sport is just begging for an injury.
It’s not like injuring your wrist either. We use our ankles constantly to move about, which makes things a whole lot more difficult if you have a bad ankle.
So I decided to turn to do something about it and that’s when I found the one pose and it’s variations to sort your ankles out.
Reclining Hero Pose
If there is one pose that has had the biggest effect on my body, it’s this one.
This is the end range but there are many variations to work through before you get to here and I would start with the first one, work your way through them. It’s pretty intense so take it steady.
There are muscles that are active and muscles that are passively lengthening. Mainly, the active muscles are the abs to prevent the spine from overextending.
Depending on your arm position, you can also stretch the chest and lats.
However, this is a more advanced position so I wouldn’t make it an aim to get here if you’re focusing on your lower body.
You’ll see multiple benefits from working through this...
Awesome stretch for the entire front side of the body
Great for lower back pain and sciatica
Insane improvement in ankle health and ROM.
Great for spine health
Limitations that could hold you back
Given the large amount of muscles, tendons and fascia this pose ticks off the list, there are limitations in your own body you need to be aware of so you aren’t making things worse.
Tight hip extensors - your hips are extended in the full pose but if you have tight hip extensors, this will project the effort onto your lower back and knees. Back off from going down to the floor.
Tightness in the ankles - this was the big one for me but the whole point of focusing on this pose was to target my ankles, so I just went with it. You can have a blanket underneath the feet for more comfort or do single leg variations. Also, the position of your torso matters greatly in how deep you go. Sitting up will be easier than lying back, for example.
Bad back, knees or ankles - If you suffer from a bad back, knees and/or ankles, then approach this pose with extreme caution. Take it steady and maybe just chill out in the seated variations.
Steps and variations toward reclining hero
Sit upright on top of your feet, with your knees on the floor, knees about hip width apart and your feet inline with the knees. Your bum should be able to sit between your feet. If this feels like a challenge, stay here.
From here, lean backwards onto your hands. If this feels nice, stay here.
If you can go deeper, lean back on the forearms. Again, if this feels like a challenge, stay here.
Otherwise, lean all the way back so you’re lying on the floor. Place your hands either to the side or rest on your stomach for now.
To get out of this pose can be tricky. You can either push up on the soles of your feet or try and reverse the steps.
This is a yin pose, so you’re probably going to be in this pose for quite some time. I wouldn’t suggest going full depth unless you can handle it.
Have a play and try being in the pose for 30 second to 1 minute to start with.
How to make it easier or more challenging
You can make the pose harder by leaning back through the various positions and/or holding the pose for longer.
To make it easier, use props such as blocks or a bolster (cushions, if you haven’t got one) to lean back on. This is actually quite a nice variation if you’re holding the pose for a while.
With any of the variations above, you can make it easier by just doing a single leg. So sit on your right foot with left leg extended. This also makes it easier when trying to get out of the pose.
You are going to be incredibly fragile coming out of this pose. Take it super steady and just relax when you come out of it. The feet will feel a bit numb and tender!
Give this a go and let me know how you get on. It’s an awesome pose.
In a bit.
P.S. If you're wanting to learn about what muscles are effected by each stretch and pose, highly recommend Leslie Kaminoff's Yoga Anatomy book. Indispensable in your own learning!
You can pick up the book from Amazon here - https://amzn.to/2YNoIuQ