I he gastrocnemius is a two-headed fusiform muscle originating from t he backs of the femoral condyles and inserting on the calcaneus (heel bone) via the Achilles tendon. Its primary action is plantar flexion of the foot. The gastrocnemius also acts synergistically with the hamstrings to flex the knee during the push-off phase of walking, propelling the body forward.
Tightness in the gastrocnemius limits extension of the knee (as with tightness in the hamstrings). Facilitated stretching of the gastrocnemius is an effective method to break through limitations in forward-bending postures where the knees straighten.
Use the forward bend paschimottanasana to bring the gastrocnemius out to full length and then resist plantar flexion of the feet by pulling them towards the head with the hands. Hold this for a few moments and then extend the knees and draw the feet upward.
This view from the floor illustrates the polyarticular nature of the gastrocnemius and how it originates from the posterior femoral condyles, crosses the knee, and inserts on the calcaneus (via the achilles tendon).
Paschimottanasana illustrates stretching the gastrocnemius by contracting the quadriceps to extend the knees. The hands dorsiflex the ankles.
Forearm & Hand
The muscles of the forearm and hand connect the upper body with the lower body in yoga. They also stabilize the body in balancing poses and inversions. Minor chakras are present in the hand that contribute to illuminating the fourth and fifth major chakras.
For ease of understanding it is useful to divide the many muscles in this region into groups identified by their function.
The major functions include flexing and extending the wrist and complex movements of the hand and fingers. For the purpose of this chapter we illustrate the flexors and extensors of this region.
1 extensor pollicis longus
2 extensor carpi radialis brevis
6 flexor carpi ulnaris
7 flexor digitorum profundus
8 pronator teres
9 flexor digitorum superficialis
10 flexor carpi radialis
The fingers, wrist and forearms flex to grip the feet and draw the body deeper into forward bends.
Extending the wrist can be used to form a lock behind the back in twisting poses.
Forearm & Hand
1 palmaris longus
2 palmar arch
3 flexor digitorum profundus
4 intrinsic muscles (adductors and abductors)
5 flexor digitorum superficialis
6 extensor and abductor pollicis
7 extensor digitorum
8 extensor digiti minimi
9 digital sheaths
pronator quadratus pronator teres supinator
The pronator teres and pronator quadratus muscles of the forearm contract, turning the palm down.
The biceps brachii and supinator muscles contract turning the palm up.
The Myofascial Planes lymphatic system
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