Yoga for Achilles Tendonitis: Tips for Relief & Healing

A person holding their ankle in discomfort before using yoga for Achilles tendonitis

It’s a common conundrum: you need to stretch and strengthen your muscles in order to treat a condition like Achilles tendonitis, but irritation or overstretching can quickly make things worse. How do you find the right balance? When using yoga for Achilles tendonitis correctly, you can warm up appropriately, stick to gentle movements, and reap additional benefits unique to yoga techniques.

Not only have I worked one-on-one with clients who have Achilles tendonitis, but I’ve also devoted my life to teaching the next generation of yoga therapists to do the same. I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. I hope the insights I’ve shared below will help you on your path to healing. If you want direct guidance from myself or one of our other highly trained yoga therapists, please take a look at our private online sessions to work with us.

Table of Contents:

What Is Achilles Tendonitis?

Diagram showing the muscles of the foot and ankle with those inflamed by Achilles tendonitis in red

Achilles tendonitis occurs when your Achilles tendon becomes inflamed. This tendon is the thick band of tissue running from your calf muscles in the back of your legs to your heel bones. This condition is often referred to as “Achilles tendonitis,” “Achilles tendinitis,” “Achilles tendinosis,” and “Achilles tendinopathy.”

What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?

There are several common causes of Achilles tendonitis, including:

  • Directly injuring the Achilles tendon
  • Repeatedly straining or overusing the Achilles tendon, such as in running or jumping sports
  • Increasing physical activity that uses the Achilles tendon without preparing for it
  • Improperly stretching after working out
  • Poorly fitting footwear

What Are the Benefits of Doing Yoga for Achilles Tendonitis?

Yoga is especially well-positioned to help you relieve pain from Achilles tendonitis, treat the condition, and prevent its return. Techniques such as asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises) create a powerful combination that strengthens and stretches muscles, while also soothing the nervous system to promote recovery.

Relieving Pain

There are several ways in which yoga offers pain relief to those with Achilles tendonitis. The most apparent is that yoga offers you a host of gentle movements that can safely stretch your calf muscles, targeting this area without irritating the Achilles tendon. Over time, this can help reduce your pain. Yoga also enables you to strengthen the muscles that support your Achilles tendon, bringing further relief. In general, yoga allows you to regulate your nervous system responses, encouraging the rest-and-digest state that can help you manage pain.

Soothing Your Nervous System

Pain often triggers the fight-or-flight response from your nervous system. Yoga can help you turn off that response and promote the rest-and-digest response instead. By consistently practicing calming yoga sequences, breathing exercises, and meditation, you can shift your body from a state of tension to one of rest and repair.

Studies have also shown that yoga can reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can amplify your perception of pain. Through yoga, you can help your body tap into its innate healing processes by promoting relaxation, reducing stress hormones, and facilitating a soothing environment conducive to recovery.

Targeted Muscle Strengthening

One of the benefits of yoga is that it allows for targeted muscle strengthening. There are numerous yoga poses that can strengthen the muscles around the Achilles tendon, especially the calf muscles, which support and stabilize your ankle. For those with Achilles tendonitis, being able to target specific muscle groups also means you can avoid putting stress on your tendon, which is crucial for recovery. You can also practice exercises that help form arches in your feet.

Preventative Care

If your Achilles tendonitis is related to straining or injuring your Achilles tendon, yoga can help you form arches in your feet and strengthen the muscles that support this tendon to reduce the risk of future injury. Yoga also offers you gentle warm-up exercises that can make you less likely to overstretch your Achilles tendon moving forward.

But in some cases, the cause of Achilles tendonitis relates to other muscles. The superficial back line refers to connected fascia that runs the length of the back of your body, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. Because the Achilles tendon is part of the superficial back line, you could present with pain in your Achilles tendon that is related to tightness or strain in another part of your body, such as your neck, hamstring, lower back, or buttocks—or vice versa. By practicing forward bends and other yoga poses that address the back line, you can potentially prevent future incidents of Achilles tendonitis.

Ways to Use Yoga for Achilles Tendonitis

As mentioned above, there are several different ways you can use yoga for Achilles tendonitis. These techniques include warm ups, stretching and strengthening exercises, and breathing exercises.

Warm Up with Yoga

Starting your physical activities with a yoga warm-up is excellent for preparing your muscles and tendons before stretching or strengthening exercises. One of the most important things to keep in mind if you have Achilles tendonitis is to avoid overstretching these tendons, which means warming up instead of jumping straight into stretching or working out.

Gentle movements can progressively heat the body, helping to enhance the elasticity of your connective tissues and reduce the risk of injury. Particularly for those managing Achilles tendonitis, focusing on slowly warming up with yoga can ensure the tendon and the muscles that support it are more pliable and less prone to further strain.

Stretch and Strengthen Gently

Yoga offers the perfect platform to gently stretch and strengthen the area affected by Achilles tendonitis. You want to stretch and strengthen muscles like your calves, which are attached to and support the Achilles tendon. As mentioned earlier, yoga is great for targeting specific muscle groups in the body. By lightly activating the muscles around these tendons, you can gradually increase their strength without resorting to the abrupt, high-impact movements that might aggravate your tendons.

Breathing Exercises

A common misconception about yoga is that it only involves physical movements and poses. In fact, there are many techniques within yoga, including pranayama, or breathing exercises.

Learning to breathe properly from your diaphragm can relax your nervous system, which helps promote healing. Diaphragmatic breathing is especially beneficial when used in conjunction with yoga poses and sequences. Calming your nervous system will enable you to relax the muscles that your Achilles tendon is attached to, making it easier to perform these movements safely and effectively.

Example Yoga Poses for Achilles Tendonitis

As a yoga therapist, I know that everyone is different, and what works best for you might not be right for someone else. That’s the beauty of yoga therapy, a holistic approach to health and wellness that applies yoga techniques therapeutically on an individual basis. For this reason, I recommend working with a yoga therapist if you want to treat a specific physical or mental health issue with yoga so you can get techniques personalized to you. But to give you an idea of some movements you might encounter, I’ve outlined some example yoga poses for Achilles tendonitis below.

Warm Up with Ankle and Calf Movements

To reduce the risk of further strain or injury, warm up your Achilles tendon and the surrounding muscles.

A demonstration of dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, and ankle rolls as part of yoga for Achilles tendonitis

You can start by pointing your toes to stretch the Achilles tendon gently, then flex your feet to activate the muscle groups connected to the tendon. Ankle rotations add an element of mobility, ensuring that all aspects of the ankle joint are warmed up evenly.

These movements are typically safe and beneficial to perform even when experiencing mild discomfort from tendonitis, as long as they’re done slowly, gently, and within a pain-free range.

Strengthen and Form Arches with Toe Lifts

While keeping your heels on the floor, gently lift your toes off the ground. Work slowly, focusing on the sensations of your muscles and making sure you don’t irritate the Achilles tendon. Toe lifts help to form arches in your feet, giving you greater stability and supporting the health of your back line. They also engage the muscles in your feet and lower legs, strengthening them over time and taking pressure off the Achilles tendon.

Strengthen and Form Arches with Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose, or Tadasana, is a foundational yoga pose with numerous benefits. To practice Mountain Pose, stand with your feet together, your arms slightly apart from your torso, and your palms facing forward. Feel the weight you place on each foot and make sure it’s evenly distributed. Gently lift through your arches to engage the muscles in your feet, calves, and thighs. This not only strengthens these muscles, but also helps promote arch formation in your feet.

Stretch Calves with Gentle Downward Dog or Lunges

A person performing a gentle Downward Dog followed by a lunge as part of their yoga for Achilles tendonitis

When stretching your calves, be sure to do gentle versions of poses. You should feel the stretch in your calves, not your Achilles tendon.

Typically, Downward Dog is performed by posing your body in an A-shape. Your hands and feet are on the floor, and your torso and legs form a straight incline that peaks at your tailbone. You could adjust Downward Dog by bending your knees slightly and gently bringing your feet flat on the mat, stopping if you feel too much tension in your tendons.

In a lunge, you traditionally have one foot flat on the floor, and that leg forms a right angle. The other leg extends behind you, with only your toes or the top of that foot resting on the floor. Be especially mindful of your feet and avoid lunges that are too deep in order to facilitate a gentle stretch in your calf without overstretching your Achilles tendon.

Adapting Your Yoga Practice

While it can be beneficial to practice yoga with Achilles tendonitis, yoga can also cause the condition or make it worse if you aren’t careful. You may not want to attend a group yoga class while you have Achilles tendonitis unless you feel confident in adapting the practices from the class to meet your needs. For personalized instruction, I recommend seeking the guidance of a yoga therapist. Not only can they help you find a safe personal yoga practice, but they can also teach you how to adequately adapt poses you encounter in your yoga class.

These are a few of my top tips for adapting a yoga practice if you have Achilles tendonitis:

  • Always Warm Up First: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now—don’t go straight into stretches and muscle strengthening. You could overstretch the Achilles tendon and make the injury worse instead of better. Warm yourself up gently first.
  • Avoid Overstretching or Irritating Your Tendons: It sounds obvious, but one of the most important things you can do to heal from Achilles tendonitis is make sure you aren’t overstretching or irritating those tendons. Modify or avoid movements that could engage these tendons, such as jumping or high-impact movements. Stick to gentle stretches and stop if you feel pain.
  • Use Props for Safer Practice: Props can help you safely practice a yoga pose or movement within your body’s limitations. For those with Achilles tendonitis, it can be especially helpful to put a small prop under your heels, such as a rolled towel or the rolled end of your yoga mat. This can relieve tension in your Achilles tendon when your heels are lifted.
  • Listen to Your Body: This is good advice in general, and especially when dealing with Achilles tendonitis. Your body communicates with pain and discomfort when you’re pushing it too far. Listen to these signals, stop what you’re doing, and consider if there’s a way to adapt the movement or use props next time to put less pressure on your Achilles tendon.
  • Recognize the Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis: If you’re going to listen to your body effectively, know what to be on the lookout for. With Achilles tendonitis, it is normal to feel mild discomfort while stretching. Signs that you may be irritating your Achilles tendon include sharp or throbbing pain, swelling, sensations of overstretching, ankle weakness, or trouble standing on your ankle.
  • Consider Contrast Bathing to Complement Yoga: Contrast bathing, also known as hot-cold water therapy, involves alternating between hot and cold water immersion for affected areas of the body. It can help relieve inflammation and pain, while also improving circulation and healing. If you’re looking for additional techniques to practice in conjunction with yoga, contrast bathing could be effective.


Can Yoga Cause Achilles Tendonitis?

Yes, yoga techniques that engage the Achilles tendon run the risk of causing Achilles tendonitis if you overuse or overstretch these tendons, especially without warming up. The same is true for other exercises as well.

How to Know if Yoga Is Irritating Your Injured Tendon

In general, you can tell if you are irritating your Achilles tendon by how it feels during and after yoga. Increased pain, stiffness, swelling, or weakness can be signs you are exacerbating your Achilles tendonitis.

Does Achilles Tendonitis Ever Go Away?

Yes, Achilles tendonitis can go away if you treat it properly. Be sure to get enough rest, wear supportive footwear, and avoid agitating your Achilles tendon in order to heal.

Get Professional Yoga Therapy for Achilles Tendonitis

Brandt, the founder and director of Breathing Deeply, helps a student position another person on a yoga mat while training to become a yoga therapist

If you want to work with a professional yoga therapist to treat your Achilles tendonitis, we’re pleased to be able to offer private, one-on-one sessions with our certified experts over Zoom. Take a look to learn more and reach out using the form at the bottom of the page.

Info Session

Brandt talks about common questions applicants have about the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program. Tune in to get the full program details.