Unhealthy Yoga Ankles
The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Unhealthy Yoga Ankles

Just as there are foods that are bad for you, and just as some common medicines have side effects to make you sicker instead of better, there are several yoga moves that injure directly or predispose you to later injury. This is true, not just for people who overdo the pose, or who are inexperienced, but because the move itself is inherently unhealthy.

When you sit cross-legged, don't let your ankles turn upward, left photo, above left. By turning the ankle, you diminish the stretch on your hip and inner leg muscles, and put an unhealthy stretch force on the outside of your ankle. The outside of the ankle is not supposed to stretch much; it is supposed to hold your ankle straight so that it does not turn when you stumble. Overstretching the outside of your ankle is one of a few bad habits that predispose you to ankle sprains. Future posts will cover more on stopping ankle pain and sprains, and will give fun ways to strengthen your ankles. For now, try this when sitting cross legged:

  • Straighten your ankles, as in the right-hand photo above. Preventing the bending will stop overstretching the outer ligaments and you will get more and better stretch in your hip. The hip stretch is better because the turning of the leg has to come from the hip, instead of keeping the hip raised and tight, but bending up from the ankle.
  • Sit upright and straight. Don't round your back, not even a small amount.
  • Lift your chest to sit straight instead of sitting rounded.
  • If your hip is so tight that you cannot comfortably sit upright and straight, put both hands behind you to lean your weight on your hands and push yourself upright (right photo, above).
  • You will feel more stretch, and practice better habits by sitting up straight than by leaning forward with your back and shoulders rounded.

If you get recurring ankle sprains, check to see if you are ensuring that your problem continues through the bad habit of overlengthening the outside of your ankle. Check if you sit poorly to do this stretch with your back rounded and hip curled under because you are too tight to sit in a healthful position. Sitting rounded puts huge herniating force on the lumbar (lower back) discs. Putting your hands behind you to straighten you takes weight off your lower back discs, and gives you a good hip stretch as you regain straight positioning.

As more people try to fix their health problems through medical exercise programs and yoga classes, it is good to make sure not to do things that make new health problems and perpetuate old ones.

Photos © copyright, all rights reserved, from the book Healthy Martial Arts

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.