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Ankles Aweigh! Page 2
Ankle Exercises and Stretches

Before we get into specific exercises and stretches, it's worthwhile to note that as a whole, Yoga is very beneficial to ankle health. You gain flexibility in poses like Downward Facing Dog and build strength and stability in balance poses such as Tree. The basic, classic Mountain pose teaches proper alignment. And Yoga poses can be adjusted for all ages and levels of fitness - you develop and grow into more the more advanced versions. Yoga, of course, benefits the rest of your body, too, along with your mind and spirit. A good Yoga program will give you balance in many ways, physically and mentally.

(Article continued below.)

Here are a few exercises you can do if you want to focus specifically on your ankles.

Sitting in a chair:

The Alphabet
Remove your shoes and socks. Write the alphabet on the floor with your toe, moving only your ankle. Go through all 26 letters once on each foot.

Circles
Sit with both feet on the floor. Straighten one leg a bit (don't lock your knee, though) and raise it a few inches off the floor. Do 10 circles in one direction, moving only your ankles, then do 10 circles in the opposite direction. Repeat with the other foot.

Towel Scrunch
You also do this one foot at a time. Place a towel in front of your chair. While keeping your heel on the floor, grab at the towel with your toes and scrunch it, pulling the terrycloth towards the heel. Repeat with the other foot.

Standing exercises:

Heel Raises
Your feet will also be bare for this. Use a step or a phone book and make sure you have something stable to hold onto for support - a railing or a wall, for example. Stand on the step with the toes and ball of your foot; your heels should hang off the end. Let your heels slowly lower a few inches, then slowly raise your heels as high as you can. Pause at the top for a slow count of five to ten. Concentrate on being as stable as you possibly can. Repeat 10 to 20 times. You can also do these one foot at a time, keeping all of the other foot on the step, if you are worried about your balance. Eventually you'll rely less on the passive foot and work up to using both feet.

Toe Raises
Stand with your bare feet firmly on the floor and lightly hold onto a support - you won't need much. Raise your toes off the floor by flexing your feet (as opposed to just flexing your toes). Lower. Repeat 10-20 times.

Balance
Use a heavy chair or other sturdy support. Stand straight, make sure your support is within reach, if you are not actually holding onto it. Bend one knee with the inside of your foot up against your ankle, calf or knee - however it feels most comfortable. The toe of the bent leg can be touching the floor, if you feel more secure this way. Focus your eyes on a point in front of you and balance on the straight leg for as long as you can. If you can do this easily for a minute, then raise the bent leg higher, or close your eyes (you'll definitely need a support nearby for the latter variation - it's hard to balance for long with your eyes shut). Do the other leg. Here's another option - instead of bending the non-supporting leg, you can keep it straight and just lift it a few inches off the floor. Choose a version that's challenging, but that's not going to make you keel over immediately.

You can also do some resistance exercises to build ankle strength - sit on the floor with your legs out straight in front of you and hook a towel or resistance tubing around your feet, just under the balls. Push with your feet, trying to point your toe, while pulling on the towel or tubing. You can also do this one foot at a time. Or, take an elastic band (one that looks like a big rubber band), and place one loop around the leg of a heavy table. Hook your foot into the other loop and flex your foot. If you want to work on ankle flexibility post-workout, leg circles, and pointing and flexing can also be done lying on your back on a mat, with your legs in the air. A good balance builder is a wobble, or balance board. A balance board is beneficial, not only for your ankles, but for all your stabilizing muscles.

A strong ankle may not look as impressive as a big bicep or a six-pack, but it's a lot more useful. If you spend just a few minutes a week keeping your ankles healthy, you'll have a spring in your step for many years to come.

Previous page >> Getting to Know Your Ankles >> Page 1, 2

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