Are your heels so far off the floor that your Downward Dog is a Downward Don’t? Do you suffer with tight calves, hamstrings, or plantar fascitis? If so, the Medi-Dyne Prostretch might be just the tool you need to improve your yoga practice. As a recreational runner and yoga teacher, I’m personally aware that running can result in uncomfortably calves tight calves. Yet, I’m not willing to give up running for the benefit of my yoga practice.
Let’s take a minute for a brief anatomy review. There are 2 primary muscles in the calf, the gastrocnemius (a.k.a. gastroc) and the soleus. The gastroc, think rock, is the bulbous muscle superficial to the soleus, which lies under it. Both have a role in plantarflexion (pointed toe position) of the foot. Because the gastroc originates at the femur, it is the primary plantarflexor when the leg is straight. On the other hand, the soleus is primary when the leg is bent. This tells us that, in order to stretch both, we need to extend the calf in both bent leg and straight leg positions.
So, what’s a yogi to do? While poses such as Downward Dog and Warrior I are effective for stretching the calf muscles, using the Prostretch is a more focused approach. First, it also allows for the calf to be stretched with a straight or bent leg. Second, with it’s rounded bottom, it allows for a rocker motion that simulates the foot motion which occurs during running. The stretch can be gradually deepened by rocking back so the heel sits lower than the ball of the foot. Finally, combining all that goodness with a v-shaped cradle, you’ll find it can release the fascia (connective-tissue) and achilles.
Every so often a product comes along that I want to tell the world about it. The Prostretch is one of those products. I use it every morning when brushing my teeth. I love the feeling of release and have fun rolling around on it. So, get yourself a Prostretch and the next time a yoga teacher says that Downward Dog is a restorative pose, it may actually feel that way to you.
At the start of each class, I ask students if there is a pose or body part that they would like to work on. One of the most frequent requests is for hip openers. It’s in the top 10 along with neck and shoulders. Hmmm…all places we commonly carry stress.
The anatomy of the hip is complicated to say the least and there is a spectrum of physical reasons our hips tighten. The desk jockey’s inactivity and the runner’s repetitive muscle contractions are just a couple.
There are also emotional reasons that cause the hips to feel closed off. In yoga, the pelvis is often referred to as the body’s ‘junk drawer’. It’s the perfect analogy. In it, we stuff experiences and emotions that we don’t know what else to do with. From an energetic anatomy perspective, the pelvis contains our first and second chakras, energy centers. The first chakra, muladhara, is located at the perineum and is associated with our root survival needs for nourishment and security. The second, svadhisthana, is just a couple of inches above muladhara and is associated with our sexuality and how we communicate with others. You can probably think of your own ‘junk’ related to these chakras that you have stashed in here.
I love yoga. I love running. From a physical perspective, these activities are definitely in contention. Yoga is expansive, opens the physical body and the chakras (energetic vortices). Running often results in muscular contraction, at times leading to physical and energetic misalignment. What’s a running yogi to do?
Seek balance. I run almost as many times a week as I practice yoga. Some weeks I run more and get achy. Some weeks less and I feel more balanced. Every body is different. My experience tells me that there is a point of equilibrium for everyone. A point where suka (hard) and sthira (soft) are in harmony.