This Neglected Muscle in Your Leg Deserves Tender Loving Care

Photo: Getty Images/Halfpoint Images
After a workout, I do my darndest to offer each major muscle group some tender loving care, ahem, TLC. While I'm a loyalist when it comes to stretching out my hammies, calves, and lower back, there are certain body parts I have a tendency to overlook (sorry, armpits). So this morning, when one of my colleagues mentioned that she'd learned a few shin stretches the night before, I immediately found myself with recovery FOMO. Should I be giving more attention to the land below my knee caps?

Yoga teacher Lindsay Pirozzi of New York City's Y7 studio confirms that shin stretches are good for both energetic and physical reasons. "The neglected shin muscle actually hosts tons of acupressure points and corresponds with energetic meridian lines, which is why it’s so important to stretch it," she says. "The meridian line that intersects the shin muscle is the stomach meridian, which physically governs digestion and emotionally can help to regulate imbalances with anxiety and worry."

Elongating your shins on the reg can protect against shin splints, an affliction known to long-distance runners everywhere. Consistently stretching the muscle can also prevent the development of Compartment Syndrome, a rare condition where too much pressure builds below the knee. And on top of all that, the shin stretches Pirozzi recommends to combat tightness just feel good.

Ready to learn a few shin stretches? Here are a yoga teacher's top picks.

Ankle pose: Start by sitting on your shins with the tops of your feet flat against the floor. "Sit in this kneeling position for about 20 breaths at a time. If you need to release, listen to your body," instructs Pirozzi. "As the knees start to relax you can begin to lean back, placing your hands behind you for support, until your knees begin to hover away from the floor. Hold for 20 more breaths."

Upward facing dog: You already know this one from all your vinyasa-ing, right? "This posture, when done correctly, elongates all the muscles in the leg while simultaneously strengthening them," explains the yogi. Start by lying on your stomach with your palm planted on the floor right beside your upper ribs. "While guiding your chest forward and up, begin to straighten your arms," she says. "Actively press into the top of your feet, and contract your quadriceps so that your knees and legs lift off the floor." At the same time, make sure you're keeping your abs tucked in (as always!) and keep a gentle bend in your elbows. Hold for 10-15 breaths.

Legs up the wall: Debatably the pinnacle of all yoga poses, legs up the wall literally just involves tossing your legs up the nearest wall and lying there for as long you please. Pirozzi describes it as "magic to bring circulation back to this area of the body because you’re standing on all day." It's not a "stretch," per se, but it does reverse some of the congestion caused on by your desk job. Hold for 1,000 breaths. (Just kidding. Hold for as long as you want.)

Here's why you should never skip savasana or the "Om" portion of yoga class. 

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