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I always used to be a very flexible person. In middle school, I could do full splits straddle and front-and-back on both sides. Even into high school and college, I continued to be able to do lotus positions, kicks above my head, deep lunges, stuff like that. I kind of fell off the wagon with it, but I'm trying to get back into it. Right now, I'm having a major problem with cramping in the soles of my feet during certain stretches.

The two stretches where it has become most evident are the Pigeon Stretch (pain in the front foot for both sides) and the kneeling shin stretch (it seems to go by a variety of names) on both feet. I get some degree of the same problem as the kneeling shin stretch just sitting in Seiza. The muscles in the sole of my feet ''feel'' cramped and hard. Massaging them will help relieve the pain and tension for a bit, but it often comes back when I stretch again. I've tried doing basic ankle stretches beforehand, but to little avail. I occasionally get something like this when doing deep lunges, but never nearly as badly.

I guess I'm a bit worried that, if I keep pushing through, I'm going to impair my stretching progress because my body will associate stretching with pain, but I don't want to drop these exercises because the pain seems unrelated to what I'm actually stretching.

  • There are too many factors to determine what your problem might be. The obvious ones are hydration and electrolytes. There's also age and previous injury. – rrirower Jan 15 '15 at 13:42
  • Hydration and electrolytes are unlikely because the cramping is only happening on the soles of my feet, and only in certain stretches. If I had a fluid problem, I'd expect to have problems when running or doing other stretches. – Sean Duggan Jan 15 '15 at 13:58
  • How long did you fall off the wagon? It could be that your body's just getting used to it after a long absence. Of course, as @rrirower suggested, age could also play a role. – Kneel-Before-ZOD Jan 15 '15 at 15:38
  • {nods} I'm 34. As to how long it's been since I stretched routinely, it's been a few years. Last time was probably when I was doing capoeira in the 2012 timeframe. Even then, I was past my glory days of full splits (those went away somewhere in the college timeframe when I stopped doing them on a daily basis) but I was still doing alright. – Sean Duggan Jan 15 '15 at 15:41
  • Ultimately, I'm not completely discounting the idea of it just being me getting back into it, or dehydration, but it doesn't feel like the right problem on a gut level, and it lacks a solution other than "keep pushing and hope the pain goes away". :) – Sean Duggan Jan 15 '15 at 15:50
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This happened to me when I started doing vigorous yoga again after an extended period of absence. My flexor muscles would cramp in simple things like child pose, but my base foot would always cramp during balance postures. It went away after a few weeks, in combination with the exercise and corrective measures.

My primary training is as a massage therapist and I tend to find a massage-related answer first. (What can I say, I'm biased!) So, question- are your calves fairly tight? There are pain referral patterns that might be mistaken for cramping.

In my case, it was a combination of things- muscles unused to activating were now being asked to activate a lot, and much tighter gastroch-soleus group due to walking to work in heels. I changed my shoes, kept exercising, and it went away. I still think that it's mostly due to "overuse of muscles that are not accustomed to exercise." (source)

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I recommend rolling the bottoms of your feet with a tennis ball; that should help loosen things up nicely.

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