According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, approximately 25,000 people sprain their ankles every day. Immediately after the injury, it is recommended that you rest and protect the joint as well as work to reduce the swelling. The next stage in rehabilitation is to restore your ankle's flexibility and range of motion and then work on strengthening the joint and surrounding muscles to prevent further injury—all areas in which yoga can assist you once you are back on your feet.
According to the Sports Injury Clinic, sprains are defined as a stretching or tearing of ligaments. The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion sprain, in which the ankle rolls over toward the outside of the foot, damaging the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Sprains are divided into three categories based on their severity. The Sports Injury Clinic recommends rest, ice, compression and elevation immediately after the injury. It may be days or even weeks before you can return to your regular activities, including yoga.
Poses for Flexibility
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society says that once the initial pain and swelling has gone down after a sprain, stretches should be performed. Certain yoga poses can facilitate stretching and are particularly helpful because props can be used to modify the pose, making it safer and easier to perform, especially if the joint is still tender.
In the article "Step Lively" published in the September/October 2003 issue of "Yoga Journal," hero pose, frog pose and child's pose are recommended as useful to stretch the ankle. When performing hero or child's pose, a rolled up towel can be placed underneath the feet to decrease the pressure put on the ankles.
Poses for Range of Motion
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society also says it's important to regain the range of motion in the ankle after a sprain, which should begin once bearing weight on the affected ankle can be tolerated.
Chair pose not only will help to increase the ankle's range of motion but also will increase strength in the muscles surrounding the joint. Use the wall or a chair if you are concerned about balance, and make sure the injured ankle is the limiting factor in how far you can go into the squat.
Downward facing dog also will help to regain the range of motion. Gently pressing your heels toward the ground, even if they are not touching, will help to increase the range of motion. For a more active pose, alternate pumping the feet by rising on the ball of one foot and then gently pressing the heel to the floor, then repeat with the other foot.
Poses to Avoid/Modify
The Yoga Journal lists one-legged balance poses as ones to skip if you have an ankle injury. These poses, including extended hand to toe and dancer's pose, should be avoided until the ankle in completely recovered because falling could reinjure the ankle.
The Yoga Journal also says lotus pose would not be a good idea. The angle the ankle joint is at when performing this pose correctly can be too intense, especially if the joint is still tender. Substitute easy pose until the joint is fully healed.
Most of the standing poses also should be modified until you are confident your ankle will support your body weight. Use the wall or a chair for additional balance, and use the injured ankle as the limiting factor to ensure you are not going too far into the pose.
If you have a history of weak ankles or repeated sprains, certain yoga poses can be used to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint, which will help to stabilize it. The Yoga Journal lists balancing poses, such as eagle pose, half moon, dancer's pose and extended hand to toe, as ankle strengthening poses. In balancing poses, the small stabilizing muscles surrounding the ankle are being used. Strong stabilizing muscles will help prevent future injuries.