Q: I have a student who isn’t pressing her heels into the floor when she pliés, because she feel a pinch in her calves. What can she do for this problem?
A: Your description sounds like a muscle strain (meaning muscle fibers have torn and adhesions have set in). Symptoms of mild muscle strains usually go away within a few weeks, but more severe strains may take months to heal.
Try having your student sit on the floor, place a pinkie ball under her calf and gently massage any tight areas. Then, have her stand up in a lunge position and place her hands (or elbows, depending on her flexibility) on the seat of a chair in front of her. First, encourage her to contract the quadriceps of the back leg while at the same time letting her weight drop through the foot and heel of the back foot. Keep the quads contracted and slowly flex the toes to deepen the calf stretch. Try this first with the foot square, then again with the weight slightly more on the outside edge of the foot, and again with the weight on the inside edge of the foot. Be deliberate and slow, taking time to relax the foot, toes and quads between shifting positions.
Hopefully these exercises will allow her to feel an appropriate stretching sensation rather than the pinch in her calf muscles.