The last few months I have been thrilled to come back to my roots, although my boxing days are behind me recently I reunited with my past friends. Coming back to martial arts this year was a completely different and exhilarating experience, yet I took note of the effects on my body of the switch from my beloved yoga to more physically demanding workouts and schedules. I began talking to many of my athlete friends, whom all specialize in different sports and it came to my attention, the recurring problems they all experienced due to the strain they constantly put on their muscles, ligaments and connective tissues through intense exercise.
Being an instructor first and foremost I couldn’t just stand by, so I compiled a list of the 10 Yoga Poses Every Athlete should do Daily. The work already put on their bodies means that they may not benefit from any yoga poses that require physical effort like power yoga, however, yoga poses that focus on stretching and elongating the muscles and tissues of the body will help not only greatly improve their agility and performance but also aid in rejuvenating the body after practice and help those who have sustained injuries.
1. Child Pose. – kneel with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Lean forwards, spread your knees so that you can lay your head and chest closest to the floor. You can keep your hands by your sides, rested or in front of you as a straight line from your back. Hold up to 2 – 3 minutes. During this pose, you have to breathe calmly and evenly, inhale and exhale both through your nose. Breathe in, counting to 8 and exhale for the same amount of time, deep and slow. Attempt to completely focus on your breathing and nothing else.
• Healing and restful pose.
• Can relieve back and neck pain
• Can stretch the spine in a gentle, non-intrusive manner.
! Be wary of knee injuries or issues that you may have, you may find its best to place a blanket or a soft mat under your knees or ankles when attempting the pose to minimize the discomfort (do not do the pose if the knee injury is serious or recent)
2. Rabbit - Begin by returning to sitting on your heels. Exhale and reach your arms around to grab your heels with the back of your hands facing out. Lower your head down so that the top of your head is lying on the floor as close to your knees as possible. When you exhale push your shoulder blades outwards in order to feel that back stretch. Hold for a couple of minutes.
• Lengthens the spine and stretches the back, the neck, the arms, and shoulders.
• Stimulates the immune and endocrine system.
3. Prone Lying Shoulder stretch – From the last pose, lie flat on your stomach, stretch your right arm perpendicular at shoulder height, for better grip spread the fingers and “dig” them into the floor. Then slowly roll onto that side using the left hand for support. The depth will depend on how much weight you will bring to the side, place your feet in a position that allows you to control your position while allowing you to stay in it for a long period of time comfortably. When you switch sides roll onto your stomach carefully and spread the other arm. Stay on each side for 2-3 minutes and do not forget to breathe slowly and deeply.
• Great shoulder stretch, as well as elongating the arm after it has been put under pressure from physically demanding exercises.
4. Down facing dog – Stand on your hands and knees, tuck your toes, on exhale lift your knees, straightening them to your ability. Sometimes it is better to compromise, bend your knees but keep a straight line from your hands down your spine. Straighten the spine and push away from the floor using your hands, attempt to place the heels of your feet on the floor. (They rarely reach, that is not the point) Stay here for several breaths. Then by bending one leg further, lengthen the other switching your weight from one leg to the other occasionally. This allows us to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles. Do this a couple of times.
• Improves circulation and energy flow.
• Allows full body stretching.
5. One leg folded back: From the last pose, slowly step forward and place your self into a siting position with your legs stretched out in front of you and inhale and straighten the spine. Bend your right foot at the knee and place it beside you, to take off some of the added stress place a towel or a soft mat underneath the buttocks of the stretched leg to take some of the strain of it. Exhale as you lower your chest; imagine you are trying to place it on your knee. The main goal is to stay focused on deep, regular breathing and pushing your self forwards, rather than trying to grab your toes, focus on the sensations happening inside your body and relax. Stay here for 2 -3 min. Then repeat to the other side.
6. Half Saddle: From that same asana, bring your spine upwards and lightly bend the stretched leg, place your elbows for support at the back of your body (It's better to sometimes put a blanket or a pillow under your back to take the strain out of both legs. Bring your intention into the flat lying leg in order to properly stretch the quads. Stay in this pose for 2- 3 min. Breathe deeply and evenly, once again you must be aware of your breathing precision and focus on the sensations in your leg. Repeat for the other side.
• Stretches hip flexors and quadriceps
• This makes a good rotation for the hip.
• The pose also allows you to lightly stretch the ankles, aiding in movement and agility.
7. Spider: From the last pose straighten the legs, shake them lightly to release the tension and pull your spine upwards. Spread the legs and bend them at the knees slightly, gently lean forward until you can feel the stretch. Stay in this position for 2 – 3 minutes. Breathe calmly and evenly, with emphasis on mind and body relaxation.
Note: The pose is more frustrating for beguines because muscles will tug on the sitting bones and often the hips will tilt backward. You should aim to keep the weight as forward as possible without being pulled back.
• This pose will allow the hips, groin and the backs of your thigh to be more open.
• Is a non-invasive opening to the knees
• Stimulates the ovaries.
8. Lateral Dragonfly: On the next breath come up and straighten your legs still keeping them wide, attempt to place one arm flat on the floor inside the leg on which you are leaning, your body should be parallel to that leg and the other hand should be resting on your head. Using the arm laying flat you can push against your inner leg to open up the chest and push outwards. 3 minutes minim for both sides.
Don’t forget to breathe, that remains the most vital fact, allow gravity to slowly bring you closer to your leg.
The pose is a great side and back stretch.
The inner thighs get a good stretch.
9. Twist: Come out of the pose slowly, lay down flat on your back with your hands at your sides and take several deep breaths. Then lay your arms perpendicular to your body and place your right leg over your left one. Stay in this position as long as you feel the need but no less than 3 minutes for each side.
• This contracts and then relaxes the stomach organs.
• Twisting aids in the restoration of equilibrium of the nervous system after a long practice.
• Helps release tension that builds in the spine.
• Stretches the oblique and the hips.
10. Happy Baby: Coming back from the pose lay down flat on your back. Bring your knees to your chest hugging them tightly; roll around slightly on your mat to give yourself some movement. After you feel confident you can attempt to catch your toes and bring your knees closer to your armpits. You can get into that pose by holding at the soles of your feet and using this grip to push them apart and down. Stay in this position for 3 or more minutes, at this part of the practice you should relax and beguine rejuvenating.
• Deep hip opening
• Releases and decompresses the sacroiliac joints
• Can be a good compression of stomach organs
• Can help improve performance in some cases.
But these are just 10 poses I came up with that every athlete should know if they want to improve both their performance and physical health, a lot more information, poses, sequences and other very vital things can be found in my courses or classes so feel free to contact me!