By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle
The ankles are remarkable joints that carry the weight of your body throughout the day as you walk, stand, climb stairs, and get in and out of your car. Often, we take our ankles for granted and ignore how important they truly are. As firefighters, you add approximately 60 extra pounds with your gear! This excess weight can strain your ankles, causing them to swell up or become painful, which is why it is especially important for firefighters to keep their ankles strong and healthy. This can be done by doing a few simple daily exercises.
Feet to Sky Pose (photo 1) is an excellent way to keep the ankles limber and lubricated to aid in the prevention of injury and improve the flexibility of the ankles. Performing Feet to Sky Pose and gently rolling the ankle in a circular motion clockwise and counterclockwise strengthens and lengthens the ankle and foot muscles, maintaining mobility in these hard-wearing joints and bones. In addition, flexing and pointing our feet while in Feet to Sky Pose by drawing the feet toward the body and then pointing the toes toward the sky also improve the lubrication (photo 2), strengthening the muscles and bones of the resilient ankles.
Downward dog (photos 3, 4) is another wonderful pose for the ankles. Place your feet hip-width apart. Your head is completely relaxed. Pull your tailbone up and press your chest back toward the floor, lengthening the back of your legs. Relax your head and gently press your chest back toward the thighs, breathing deep and exhaling about three “Ha” breaths. Pedal your feet, bending one leg then the other. Pedal your feet for a minute or so. From here, gracefully lower the knees down, sit back on your heels, and relax your forehead on the floor into child’s pose.
Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.”
Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.