Three years after losing more than 50 pounds, Brad Maren was in the best shape of his adult life. He was strength training four times a week for about an hour, following a program of “high-density” circuit workouts in which he increased weight and reps without changing the workout duration. The program was intense but responsible.

Then one day, in the middle of a set of deadlifts, while pulling the loaded bar from the floor, Maren (name changed, at his request) felt it: a shooting pain where his right glute and hamstring meet. He quickly dropped the weight.

Searching online, the 37-year-old pinpointed the pain to where the proximal hamstring tendon attaches to the ischial tuberosity, or sit bone, at the bottom of the pelvis. Known as high-hamstring tendinopathy, it’s a common strain among athletes and avid exercisers that’s exacerbated by a muscle imbalance between the hamstrings and quadriceps, a lack of flexibility, and repetitive motions.

Maren learned that stretching could help counteract the intense loads he was putting on his body, but he resisted the go-to suggestion on everyone’s lips: yoga. The stereo-typical yoga-class environment — quiet and dimly lit, the scent of essential oils wafting in the air, nimble practitioners bending like Gumby — simply didn’t appeal to him. Moreover, as a Twin Cities–area police officer and busy dad to two young kids, he didn’t have an extra 90 minutes to spare “just” to loosen his tight hamstrings.

Then he discovered ROMWOD — an acronym for Range of Motion Workout of the Day — an online video service based on the principles of martial arts and yin yoga, a slow-paced form of restorative yoga that employs long holds in singular poses to stretch the deeper tissues of the body. Designed for CrossFitters, the daily videos average 17 minutes in length and are filmed in gyms with weightlifters.

“It’s more accessible for athletes who often typical yoga classes,” says yogi Daniel Head, cocreator of ROMWOD and founder of the Yoga Room in Redlands, Calif.

Maren began following the program, squeezing in the brief sessions each night after his kids were in bed. Within a couple of weeks, he saw improvements in his range of motion and strength, as well as a shift in mindset about how he was approaching his training.

Even better, his hamstring pain subsided almost immediately; a little more than a month later, it was gone. “I can do heavy deadlifts, squats, and other lifts and have no discomfort,” he says.

“Now I have more confidence in the movements, and I trust my body can handle the heavy loads.”

Why Yoga Works

Yoga has long been lauded for benefits that include stress reduction, mental focus, and reduced back pain, among many others. No matter the style, a consistent yoga practice has been shown to contribute to improvements in strength, mobility, balance, and concentration. It amps up physiological and cognitive abilities that translate to better performance. As a result, experts who are adapting yoga for athletes argue that it has a lot to offer people who repeatedly push their bodies to the edge.

“Strength without flexibility equals rigidity, and flexibility without strength equals instability,” explains Jonny Kest, international director of Life Time’s LifePower Teacher Training program (and this month’s cover subject). “You clearly need both for longevity and performance in any athletic effort.”

Yoga is, in many respects, a moving meditation, connecting body and mind through movement and breathing techniques. As it has been embraced by more athletes, there has been renewed interest in studying — and promoting — its physical side. While this doesn’t always accurately describe what yoga is traditionally about, it does home in on the fact that it is good for the body.

Research shows, for instance, that passive stretching — the kind done in yoga — increases the amount of energy stored in muscles and improves their function while also boosting flexibility and balance.

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Yoga, Division II male soccer and baseball players were split into two groups: One took hourlong yoga classes twice a week for 10 weeks, in addition to the normal practice and training for their sports; the other didn’t participate in yoga. At the end of the trial, the yoga group showed significant improvements in flexibility, joint range of motion, and balance. Specifically, these athletes experienced greater dorsiflexion in their ankles, improved knee and hip extension, and better shoulder flexion.

While research on yoga for athletes — and programs adapting it for them — often focuses on the physiological benefits, it’s worth noting that yoga’s mental rewards are also a boon to the athletically inclined. These support performance (increased focus and an improved ability to handle the mental and emotional demands of a tough training day and competition), as well as recovery (stress relief and relaxation).

“This is time for your body to recover, your mind to rest, and to really allow the benefits of exercise to soak in,” says Head.

Moreover, Kest notes, “if you’re relaxed, you’re less likely to choke, and that gives you an advantage in any competitive field.”

None of this is lost on professional athletes whose careers depend on staying in top form. In the past decade, teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle Seahawks have hired yoga teachers to work with their basketball and football players, respectively. Meanwhile, tennis pros and U.S. Olympic skiers tout yoga as the secret ingredient for keeping them flexible, balanced, and focused. As yoga has become mainstream among pro athletes, it’s also become more accessible to recreational athletes who don’t consider themselves yogis.

The Yoga Advantage

An estimated 36 million Americans engage in some form of yoga, and there’s increasing interest in using the ancient practice as a performance aid and recovery tool. Given the stress placed on the body by many sports and activities — be it strength training, running, cycling, swimming, tennis and other racket sports, or simply long jaunts on the elliptical — yoga is a logical add-on to many fitness regimens. Repeating the motions commonly associated with a specific activity helps you get better, but it also causes repetitive wear and tear that can lead to niggling discomfort or, over time, injury.

“The body is engineered for balance,” says Erin Taylor, author of Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes and creator of a program that prescribes short, focused yoga routines designed specifically to address imbalances in the body. “There’s no denying that sports cause imbalance, because they require repetitive movements, often in just one range of motion. Over time, unless you’re doing some cross-training to move the body in different ranges of motion, going to injure yourself.”

Yoga can also relieve chronic pain. Dean Pohlman, who created the online training program Man Flow Yoga, has gained a following among formerly athletic guys in their 50s — many who suffer from lower-back pain — looking to get back into shape. Yoga helps address the symptoms of too much time spent sitting at a computer, in the car, or on the couch.

The Man Flow Yoga solution blends brief sequences of slow and controlled yoga poses with sound fitness-training principles. “You don’t have to be a committed yogi to get results,” Pohlman explains.

He says his athletes respond well to receiving practical information about how yoga affects their bodies: increased flexibility, improved muscle recovery, greater range of motion, increased power, a stronger spine, better balance, and reduced risk of injury, to name a few of his top points.

“We talk about how yoga helps with physical aspects that your regular training doesn’t address,” he adds. “Yoga is basically going to make you better at anything you do.”

The specific style of yoga that fitness experts prefer varies. Yin yoga, which is the foundation for the ROMWOD model and one of the fastest-growing yoga-class offerings at Life Time’s clubs, works well for athletes, thanks to slow breathing and long holds that calm the nervous system and soothe the mind and body.

Faster-paced vinyasa classes might be good for those who have trouble slowing down, because it eases them into yoga with a more active feel. Even adding in a couple of poses before or after a workout can go a long way in activating muscles and relaxing connective tissues. (For more on selecting a yoga style, see “Getting Started” on below.)

There is a commonly cited rule that you should spend as much time stretching as you do strengthening. The reality, experts say, is that something is always better than nothing.

Whatever your yoga style of choice, the goals are the same: feel good, perform better, and become more resilient. To achieve this, yoga teachers focus on tailoring poses to achieve balance and improve body mechanics.

Yoga, Taylor says, can be “super-potent preventive medicine.”

There’s Pose for That!

Images by Kelly Loverud Target Area: Hamstrings

Weak and tight hamstrings are common among runners, who often rely on their quads to power themselves forward. (The same is often true for cyclists.) This pose focuses on the adductor magnus, the most powerful adductor muscle, to alleviate tightness, prevent hamstring injuries, and make it easier to activate the glutes.

Pose: Standing Straddle Forward Fold

When to perform: Postworkout or during recovery.

How to do it:

  • Step your feet wide apart (about a leg’s length), with your feet parallel.
  • Walk your hands down your legs, and allow your torso to hang between your legs. You can bend your knees and rest your hands on the floor or a yoga block, if you choose.
  • Bend and stretch your legs a few times, and press down evenly through the bottoms of your feet to gently deepen the stretch. Then be still, and hold for five breaths.

Note: You can also perform this pose with feet turned inward about 30 degrees, internally rotating at the hips to deepen the stretch.

Strength Training

Images by Kelly Loverud Target Area: Legs

Due to thicker fascia in the lower body, not to mention bigger muscles and bones, the legs need more attention in preparation for and to recover from moves like squats and deadlifts. This pose will hit the quads, groin, hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, and IT band.

Pose: Lizard

When to perform: As part of your warm-up and cool-down, or any time on rest days.

How to do it:

  • Start on your hands and knees, and step the right foot outside your hands. Tip the foot on its outside edge if possible.
  • Slide your left leg back behind you (if needed, place a blanket or towel under the left knee).
  • With your hands or forearms on the floor (use a block or pillow if reaching the floor is too intense), let your back round and your head hang naturally.
  • Relax your lower body, inhaling for eight seconds and exhaling for 10 seconds. Work up to holding for two to four minutes.
  • Repeat with the opposite leg.

Basketball

Target Area: Glutes and hips

Athletes who rely on fast-twitch muscle action (think short, explosive movements) worry about losing power by overstretching. But when connective tissue is tight and dry, those muscles suffer. When your fast-twitch muscles aren’t getting proper circulation, you lose some of your explosive potential. This post-workout move improves blood flow to these areas.

Pose: Pinwheel

When to perform: Postworkout or during recovery.

How to do it:

  • Sit on a mat and bend your knees, staggering one leg in front of the other in a pinwheel shape.
  • Keeping both feet flexed, sit up tall and turn your torso toward your front thigh, and then fold over it, propping yourself up on your forearms. Use a block or pillow for added support, if needed.
  • Hold for five to eight breaths, unwind from the pose, and then switch the direction of your legs.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Cycling

Target Area: Chest

Sitting, especially for long periods, can have deleterious consequences on posture — whether you’re hunched over in your office chair or in the saddle of your road or stationary bike. Over time, this position can cause tightness and foreshortening of the chest muscles, making it hard to engage the core and potentially causing back and neck pain. This move will help open up the chest and counteract tightness.

Pose: Chest Expansion

When to perform: Postworkout or during recovery.

How to do it:

  • Standing, clasp your hands behind your back, interlacing your fingers.
  • Move your shoulder blades closer together by squeezing your elbows toward each other. Feel your chest opening.
  • Looking straight ahead, keep your face and neck relaxed, and hold for five to eight breaths.

Tennis

Images by Kelly Loverud Target Area: Shoulders

Serving a ball places tremendous force on the area where the four muscles of your rotator cuff connect your arm to your shoulder blade. The best way to avoid injury to this area is to learn to coordinate the movement of your shoulder blade and upper arm’s ball-and-socket joint. This stretch will also help.

Pose: Rotator-Cuff Stretch

When to perform: Postworkout or during recovery.

How to do it:

  • Hold a yoga strap, towel, or rolled-up T-shirt in one hand. Lift your arm straight up, palm facing behind you, and bend the elbow so that the strap hangs down your back.
  • Reach your other hand behind you to grab the strap from the bottom, with that elbow pointing toward the ground.
  • Pull down on the strap to deepen the stretch in the back of your top arm. Engage your core to avoid rounding your back.
  • Hold for up to eight breaths, and then switch sides.

Swimming

Images by Kelly Loverud Target Area: Chest and shoulders

Swim strokes primarily rely on strength, mobility, and power in the upper body. These muscles tend to be smaller than lower-body muscles and often need additional TLC to work well and feel good.

Pose: Shower

When to perform: Postworkout or during recovery.

How to do it:

  • Face a wall and put both hands on it about an arm’s distance above your shoulders, fingers pointing up.
  • Step away from the wall and lengthen your spine toward the floor. Engage your core and lift your ribs so you don’t collapse into your spine.
  • Keep your head in a neutral position by gazing at the point where the wall and floor meet, and hold for five to eight breaths.

Kelle Walsh Kelle Walsh is a writer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay area.

Images by Kelly Loverud

The Yoga Sequence Every Athlete Needs To Master

Excuses, excuses, excuses. I hear them all the time:

Listen, no one is making you go to yoga, but you’re missing out on some serious self-care if you don’t. I consider it to be in the same category as things like adhering to a healthy diet, getting a massage, or doing some strategic foam rolling, in that it has a slightly mysterious ability to make everything else you do a little better. There is a reason this modality has been around for over 5,000 years. That’s longer than kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, and just about everything else you’ll find.

The definition of yoga means “to yoke” or unite, and when paired with strength training, it is simply a match made in the stars. Strength training is a form of repetitive stress on your body, which is important, but it also needs to be balanced to provide its biggest benefits. Adding a bit of yoga into your daily routine can help you improve your focus and bodily control, train with better form, and recover better after you train.

If you spend a lot of time strength training, you likely find that you are tight in muscle groups like the hamstrings, pecs, and shoulders. These problem areas are common no matter if you move big barbells, swing or press kettlebells, or do nothing but bodyweight training. Even if you don’t strength train, you’re likely suffering from less-than-perfect posture. In both cases, you can benefit from learning and practicing a basic yoga sequence known as the Sun Salutation.

Rise with the Sun

The Sun Salutation links several of the fundamental yoga poses into a flow. Along the way, it also stretches and engages all the major muscle groups in your body, including your chest, back, abs, arms, and legs. It also provides gentle strengthening to joints such as your ankles, wrists, hips, knees, and elbows. The sequence touches pretty much everything, which is one reason why it’s a non-negotiable feature in the opening of most yoga classes. It can even be an entire practice unto itself.

There are many different variations of the sun salutation that you may encounter. This is how to perform the most basic version. Pay attention to the breathing cues to get the most out of it!

  1. Begin standing upright with your feet together and arms at your sides. This is known as Mountain Pose.
  2. On an inhale, reach your arms overhead, touching your palms together and lengthening through your spine.
  3. Exhale and fold forward to touch your toes. Bend your knees to touch your feet if you are unable to do so with your legs straight.
  4. On your next inhale, rise halfway up, allowing your gaze to shift forward and your spine to extend. Your back should be flat in this position with your fingers on your shins, or on the ground if you have the flexibility.
  5. Exhale and place your palms flat on the ground framing your feet as you step one leg back to a low lunge. Your chest should be resting on your front knee and your back leg should be fully extended as you balance on the ball of your rear foot. Then step your lead foot back, bringing your feet together into a plank position.
  6. Keeping your arms close to your body and your abs engaged, begin bending your elbows and slowly lower yourself into chaturanga dandasana, or the bottom of a push-up. At the bottom position, your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels, with your elbows bent just past 90 degrees. You can modify this pose by lowering your knees to the ground for more support.
  7. On your next inhale, roll to the tops of your feet and press away from the ground, straightening your arms and arching your spine into the upward-facing dog position. Broaden through your collarbones as you squeeze your shoulder blades down and back and gaze upwards.
  8. Your legs should be firm and hovering about an inch off the ground as you press down through the tops of your feet and hands. If you feel any pressure in your lower back, bend your elbows and keep the front of your hips and thighs connected to the ground to minimize the arch in your spine. This is known as Cobra Pose.
  9. Take a deep breath in as you tuck your toes under and press away from the ground, raising your hips upward so your body resembles the letter “A.” This is the classic Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Your legs and arms should be active and engaged, with your head hanging as you look toward your thighs. Eventually, you want your heels to be in contact with the floor, but if they’re not, either bend your knees or allow your heels to hover a few inches from the ground.
  10. From Downward-Facing Dog, lift one leg into the air, stepping that foot up between your hands back to a low lunge position. Then step your other foot up to meet it. Exhale and fold forward.
  11. Finally, inhale and rise with a flat back to that halfway-up position (step 4) again, then to Mountain Pose. Repeat the sequence, remembering to alternate which leg you lunge with.

It may look like a lot on paper, but with just a little practice it becomes a seamless flow that you’ll have no trouble remembering. Once you’ve got it down, you can make it more challenging by adding a pair of small jumps: jumping back into chaturanga instead of stepping one leg at a time, and jumping forward between your hands from Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

When and How to Use the Sun Salutation

The Sun Salutation is a pretty perfect warm-up at the start of your session. If you follow the common programming of doing 12 rounds, or six per side, you’ll feel warm, mobile, and ready for whatever comes next, be it overhead work like handstand push-ups or kettlebell presses, squat variations, or practicing that pull-up. It can also be a cool-down at the end of your workout, stretching out what’s tight from training.

No matter how you use it, remember that each transition in the sequence is done to the tune of your breath, fully inhaling and exhaling during each movement. Ideally, you want to be breathing in and out through your nose.

Once you get comfortable with it, you can also do dedicated sessions that are nothing but Sun Salutations, in numbers of 20, 30, 50, or more. In fact, many hardcore yogis will perform 108 Sun Salutations in a single practice, as 108 is considered a sacred number in Hinduism. That may sound like an epic physical—and mental—challenge right now, but if you could do it, there’s no doubt you’d see incredible carryover to everything you do in the gym, and how you feel outside of it. And as an added benefit, your excuses for not doing yoga would all disappear.

There is no substitute for attending a well-taught 60-90-minute yoga class, but when you can’t do it, or before you get started on your journey, let the Sun Salutation help. Start by practicing it a few times on each side, and when you’re ready, give the 108 Sun Salutation Challenge a try!

Simple Home Yoga Sequence for the Busy Athlete

Time is one of life’s most valuable resources. I often hear people say, “I’d love to do yoga if I had more time.” But everyone can make time for twenty minutes of yoga. It may involve getting up just a little earlier in the mornings, but it is so worth it.

If you don’t have time to make it to a yoga class, then doing a home yoga practice is your best option. I suggest going to classes when possible or hiring a teacher for a few private yoga sessions and supplementing with a home practice. The instructions from an experienced yoga teacher are important for ensuring proper alignment and to keep you from avoiding poses you don’t like, but need.

Every balanced yoga practice should include a warm-up of the major muscle groups, dynamic movements such as sun or moon salutations, twists, back bends, hip openers, and forward bends. Inversions are also great and complete a balanced practice, but if you’re doing a home practice without wall space you’ll need to be creative.

Below is a sample practice that stretches and strengthens the whole body. I am using the standing wide-leg forward bend and the one-legged hamstring stretch on the back as both the forward bends and inversions in this practice. As I mentioned before it is essential to go to a few classes to get the proper form and prevent injuries.

1. Child’s Pose – If this pose bothers the knees place a blanket where the knees bend to ease the amount of flexion in the knee joint. If the ankles do not feel comfortable here place a rolled up towel at the front of the ankle joint between the top of the foot and the floor.

2. Cat and Cow – Inhale in cow, and exhale in cat dynamically for 5-8 breaths.

3. Downward Facing Dog – You can bend the knees and lift the hips higher to press the chest back toward the thighs if the back is rounded. You may bend one knee at a time to stretch out the calves. Do this pose for 5 breaths.

4. Forward Bend – Walk the feet to the top of the mat and grab the elbows to bend forward providing traction for your spine. 5-8 breaths.

5. Roll to Standing – Roll yourself up, bit by bit like a rag doll.

6. Sun Salutations (3-5 rounds)

  • Inhale, lift the arms above the head
  • Exhale, bend forward
  • Inhale, step the right foot back and lower the knee to the ground (keep the left knee at 90 degrees)
  • Exhale, downward facing dog
  • Inhale, shift forward to plank pose
  • Exhale, lower to the belly
  • Inhale, lift the chest into cobra – press firmly through the feet, keep the hips on the ground and bend the elbows
  • Exhale, downward facing dog
  • Inhale, step the right foot forward between the hands and lower the left knee to the ground
  • Exhale, step the left foot to meet the right
  • Inhale, reach the arms overhead and come up to standing
  • Exhale, lower the hands in prayer at the heart

That completes half of a round. Repeat the instructions, stepping the left foot back and bringing the left foot forward to complete one whole round.

7. Extended Side Angle Pose – 8 breaths.

8. Triangle Pose – 8 breaths.

9. Standing Wide Leg Forward Bend – Hands interlaced behind the back. 5 breaths.

10. Lunge Twist – 5 breaths.

11. Bow Pose or Bridge Pose – 8 breaths.

12. Pigeon Pose or Thread the Needle – 15 breaths each side.

13. One-Legged Hamstring Stretch on the Back – 10 breaths each leg.

14. Savasana – Relaxation pose. 3 minutes.

Photos courtesy of .

Yoga For Athletes

It is common knowledge now that the health benefits of yoga are both numerous and tremendous. In addition to improving flexibility and mobility throughout the entire body, practicing yoga regularly strengthens your immune system. It reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. Yoga improves your quality of sleep. You will also be better able to control food cravings through regular practice. And athletes may even have more of a need for yoga with the constant stress they put on their bodies.
For those who compete in sports — or just want to feel better for everyday activities — yoga can help you run faster, jump higher, and train harder. There is a reason that professional athletes have been engaging in yoga for decades — how else do you think Ryan Giggs made it to 40 in the Premier League? Yoga can be incorporated into a performance training routine in many ways. Firstly, it is a great recovery or off-day activity between games or training sessions. Yoga clears the mind and calms the body. Alternatively, shorter yoga sessions of 10-15 minutes can be added before or after training sessions. Use the five positions below and spend a few minutes in each.
1) Pigeon

Spending a few minutes in the pigeon position can reset your hips from a tough training session or too many hours spent sitting down at the desk. This pose opens up the hips, which can lead to a number of benefits, including decreased lower back tightness and increased range of motion for running, squatting, and other fundamental full-body movements. Increased mobility through the hips also reduces the risk of knee and ankle injuries (as these two joints often compensate for tight and restricted hips).
As with any yoga pose, consistent, deep breathing is the key more than anything else. There are a lot of ways to progress the pigeon into a deeper, more difficult stretch, but focus on the fundamental position initially. You will very likely discover an asymmetry between your hips. Spend more time on the tighter, more restricted side.
Keys to remember: focus on your breath, keep your hips square, and don’t stretch through pain. If it hurts, you have gone too far.
2) Downward Dog

Perhaps the most well known yoga pose, the downward dog has tremendous benefits for the entire body, including increased mobility throughout the shoulders and mid-to-lower back, relaxation through the neck and upper back, and flexibility improvements throughout the legs (specifically the hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendons, and ankles). This pose will also quickly reveal any imbalances between upper body and lower body strength and endurance. If your shoulders are significantly weaker than your legs, you will find it difficult to hold this position with straight arms and shoulder blades that are both back and down. But you have to start somewhere, even if you are only able to hold the position for 10-20 seconds at a time.
Keys to remember: focus on your breath, push your hips up high while keeping your back straight, and balance the pressure between your hands and feet. You shouldn’t feel this pose too much in the front of your shoulders (although if you are new to yoga, this is probably the only place you will feel it until your muscular endurance improves).

Yoga For Athletes – The Ultimate Guide

Our Yoga For Athletes guide includes information on why yoga works so well with other sports and the best yoga exercises for athletes.

Yoga is for everyone, but it’s especially good for athletes! All the work on the field or the court can put a lot of strain on your muscles, and yoga is the perfect activity to help athletes stretch and de-stress. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about yoga for athletes, so you’ll be totally prepared the next time you hit the gym, the court, or your mat.

Yoga For Athletes – What You Need To Know

One of the most important things when doing yoga as an athlete, is to stay in tune with your body. If something hurts, don’t push yourself. Back off, and ease into the pose. Yoga isn’t a competition, and what you can and can’t do will vary day to day. The most important thing is for you to stretch and feel good. Get rid of some of the tension that you may have from your normal sport, and leave your mat relaxed and happy.

More resources…

A Guide to Yoga for Runners

7 High-Impact Sports and Activities Yoga Can Complement

Yoga For Endurance Sports Enthusiasts

Why College Athletes Should Do Yoga

Best Yoga Exercises For Athletes

Depending on your sport of choice, you’ll want to focus on certain areas of your body when choosing poses. If you play a sport like tennis or basketball, you may want to focus on your shoulders to loosen up and heal your muscles.

If you’re a runner, try out some hip openers like Pigeon Pose. Things may feel tight and tense to begin with, but with a little bit of work and easing into it, you’ll be able to loosen up. And being looser can up your game on the court, the trail, or the field. Below you’ll find all kinds of articles to find the best yoga poses for your sport! Check ’em out, and make your improve your game through the power of yoga.

5 Yoga Poses for Basketball Players

6 Yoga Poses for Football Players

3 Reasons Why Yoga is a Great Practice for Dancers

5-Minute Yoga for Runners

Benefits of Yoga For Athletes

Yoga is the perfect complement to any sport or activity. It’ll help strengthen and lengthen your muscles, and relax your mind from a stressful day. The more relaxed you are, the better you’ll perform at your next race or game. While yoga has awesome benefits for everyone, it’s particularly good for athletes. Below are some of the best benefits of yoga for any sport.

3 Yoga Benefits All Athletes Need to Improve Their Game

4 Awesome Benefits of Yoga for All Athletes

Attention Runners: Here’s Why Yoga Can Be Great Pre-Marathon!

Running and Yoga: 4 Reasons Yoga Is Great For Runners

Staying Healthy Consciously

If you’re an athlete, staying healthy is the name of the game. Eat whole, natural foods to use as food for your body, but don’t sacrifice taste! Get all the vitamins and minerals you need, and your game can’t help but improve (and your yoga practice, too!) Here’s some great info on staying healthy as a yogi and as an athlete!

9 Healthy Post-Workout Snacks

3 Delicious and Healthy Recipes in Less Than 10 Minutes

The 10 Foods You Should Always Eat

The 4 Best Protein Supplements For Vegan Athletes

Famous Athletes Who Do Yoga

Yoga isn’t just for famous actors and actresses! There are also famous athletes who do yoga. They know that the benefits of yoga will help their performance, and they’ll help yours, too. Check out these famous athletes and their yoga practice, and get inspired to hit your mat as well!

5 Famous Athletes Who Do Yoga

NBA’s Kevin Love Talks About Yoga (VIDEO)

Soccer Player Salomon Kalou Shows Off His Yoga Moves (VIDEO)

Keith Mitchell: From NFL Star To Yogi

USA
Volleyball

1. Dancer – Helps with hip mobility and single leg balance. Volleyball and other life activities leave us with tight hip flexors and rounded shoulders. Time to stretch out!

Muscles targeted: Deep stretch for hip flexors, chest and opposite hamstring
Reps: Once you feel comfortable in the stance, deepen your breath and complete 3 to 5 breaths, then change sides. Be careful not to hyper-extend your knee or arch your lower back

2. Threading-the-needle-twist – Great for torso mobility and shoulder flexibility. In volleyball, we rotate one way a lot. With that said, our torso rotation can be limited in the opposite direction, which can lead to injury along with kinetic chain.

Muscles targeted: Opens your shoulders, chest and upper back, reduces tension within the spine and increases hip flexibility
Reps: Hold for 10-30 seconds per side depending on your comfort level and stability. Complete 2 to 3 per side.

3. Wide-legged squatter – Promotes balance and flexibility. All volleyball players can relate to this one.

Muscles targeted: Works the back, calves and Achilles, adductors and hamstrings
Reps: Deepen into the pose to a point where you’re comfortable and balanced. Press your hands together to engage your core and lats (latissimus dorsi). Hold pose for 20-30 seconds.

4. Reverse plank – Ideal for core strength and posterior chain activation (glutes, hamstrings, low back). This may be my favorite move! It’s a great challenge for our posterior chain (which helps us be powerful in our play) and it helps stretch the front of our body.

Muscles targeted: Great stretch for the anterior side of your body while activating your posterior side
Reps: Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds while breathing normally. Complete 2-3 sets.

5. Pigeon forward fold – Good for flexibility of the hip, back and lats. In the USA gym, we incorporate this moving into our post-practice cool-down and the athletes love it!

Muscles targeted: Stretch for the hip, low back and lats.
Reps: Deepen into the post and hold for five deep breaths. Reaching to the right and to the left is recommended if you can comfortably hold the pelvis in position.

Benefits of Yoga for Volleyball Players

A lot of athletes choose to use yoga as a part of their training program. Some volleyball players also do yoga. What is great about yoga is that this type of physical activity helps athletes relax after volleyball games and practices. The reality is yoga stretches also make it possible for athletes to recover after injuries much faster. Doing yoga exercises is a great way to warm up and prevent different types of injuries during volleyball games and practices. Actually, the list of yoga benefits for volleyball athletes could go on and on.

As you can see, this blog post concentrates on the importance of yoga for volleyball players. Today, you’ll get an exciting opportunity to discover the most significant benefits of yoga for volleyball players. Plus, we’ll provide you with yoga poses and tips for volleyball players. Hopefully, this will help you get the most out of yoga classes.

Why It’s So Important for Volleyball Players to Do Yoga

It’s important to know that yoga provides volleyball players with a number of important advantages. Generally speaking, yoga positively affects volleyball player’s performance on the court. Yoga improves body flexibility and strengthens muscles. Also, yoga improves balance. However, the most important thing is that yoga allows volleyball players to fight stress effectively and prepare for matches mentally. Now, let’s dig deeper and try to reveal the most significant benefits of yoga for volleyball players.

– Yoga is a great way to warm up before volleyball matches and practices. It all begins with a warm up period. Volleyball players should always warm up properly prior to matches and practices. Proper warm up is a key to preventing the most common volleyball injuries. Yoga offers a lot of great stretches that can be done by volleyball athletes to warm up and reduce the risk of injuries.

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– Yoga strengthens muscles and prevents injuries. Doing yoga exercises are something that has a huge positive impact on the muscles of back, calves, hands, shoulders, hamstrings, ankles and feet. It’s worth noting that each of these muscles is incredibly important for a volleyball player. If a volleyball player does yoga exercises on a regular basis, then he/she will be able to strengthen all of these muscles over the time. It’s fair to say that the performance of a volleyball player largely depends on his/her muscles. Obviously, yoga makes it possible for a volleyball player to improve his/her performance on the court. And of course, doing yoga helps volleyball players minimize the risk of injuries dramatically.

– Yoga increases body flexibility. It’s no surprise that a volleyball player has to do different types of movements (jumping, digging, setting, blocking, hitting and so on) during the game. A volleyball player must be able to explode and begin to move in any direction anytime. Yoga is the best way to increase body flexibility. That means that an athlete has to practise yoga consistently to become more flexible.

– Yoga helps volleyball players stay balanced on the court. Yoga improves balance as well as mobility which are incredibly important for a volleyball player. Staying balanced is particularly important for defensive volleyball players. That’s the reason why you should make yoga a part of balance training for volleyball.

– Yoga lowers stress and anxiety. There has been a lot of talk about the importance of pre-match mental preparation in volleyball. It’s important to note that volleyball athletes must be prepared for games both physically and mentally. A volleyball player is unlikely to demonstrate great results on the court if he/she feels stressed all the time. It’s clear that a volleyball player has to be mentally strong to be able to demonstrate excellent results on the court. Doing yoga exercises is one of the best ways to improve your mental game on the volleyball court. The reality is yoga relieves stress as well as anxiety and improves the quality of sleep. All of this definitely has a huge positive impact on the athlete’s performance on the court.

– Yoga has a positive impact on volleyball player’s concentration. Clearly, the sport of volleyball requires a lot of concentration. A volleyball player should watch the ball as well as opposing team’s players during the game. Also, an athlete should watch his/her team’s players and know where they are located on the court. That’s why it’s so important for an athlete to stay focused during the match all the time. It’s important to point out that practicing yoga helps volleyball players improve concentration.

Some of the Best Yoga Poses for Volleyball Players

As it was mentioned above, yoga has many great benefits and yoga is vital to volleyball player’s success. Yoga offers thousands of different poses. However, it’s very important for volleyball players to do the right type of yoga exercises. With so many options you may find it hard to pick good yoga poses for volleyball sport. Below, we’ll provide you with some of the best yoga poses for volleyball players.

Dog Yoga Pose

Dog yoga pose is known for being one of easy to do yoga poses. One of great benefits of taking this yoga pose is that it targets all groups of muscles which are involved in the volleyball game. Practicing this yoga pose will certainly result in strengthening different groups of muscles including back muscles, muscles of hands, shoulder muscles, calves, hamstrings as well as muscles of ankles and feet. On top of that, dog yoga pose is a great pose for increasing body flexibility.

You’ll definitely find it easy to do dog yoga pose even if you haven’t practiced it before. First of all, you need to get on your hands and knees. It’s also important for you to get your feet hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart. Make sure that your fingers are pointing forward. Next, you have to straighten your legs. As a result, your body will form an upside-down V.

Eagle Yoga Pose

Eagle yoga pose is another good pose for volleyball athletes. Volleyball athletes choose to do the pose for many reasons. If you do this pose regularly, then you’ll be able to minimize the risk of injuring your ankles and calves dramatically. This yoga pose is also good for shoulder muscles, muscles of upper back and leg muscles. Eagle yoga pose also needs to be done to improve balance as well as concentration for volleyball.

First of all, you need to take the initial position and prepare for the pose. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Then, you need to bring your left leg up. When doing this your right knee has to be slightly bent. Next, you should aim to hug your knee to your chest and raise your hands. Now, your task is to sit down as much as possible. Of course, you may find it hard to maintain the balance while taking eagle yoga pose. However, you shouldn’t fall into despair. Keep in mind that if you master this pose it will greatly contribute to your performance on the court. Practise this pose regularly and success will come to you over time.

Warrior Yoga Poses

Warrior yoga poses deliver multiple significant benefits to volleyball players. It’s worth noting that warrior yoga poses positively affect volleyball player’s speed. So, you should definitely practise this yoga pose on a regular basis if you would like to move faster on the court. Also, you will find it easy to make lateral movements during the games and practices. Warrior yoga poses are a great way to build core strength and improve balance for volleyball. Most importantly, warrior yoga poses help volleyball players strengthen and stabilize body’s muscles (abdominal muscles, shoulder muscles, upper back muscles as well as glutes and thighs).

You need to know that many volleyball players choose to do warrior 3 yoga pose with a flying leg. Take a standing position first. Get your feet width shoulder part and keep your arms over your head. Next, you have to begin to bend your waist. Make sure that your back as well as arms are parallel to the floor. Then, you need to lift your left leg straight behind you. As a result, your weight will be balanced on the right leg (so called a flying leg). Stay in this position for a few seconds and repeat everything once again with the left leg.

Thank you so much for reading this article. Obviously, yoga offers a lot of great benefits to volleyball players of all skill levels. We’ve just highlighted the importance of yoga for volleyball and explained how athletes can benefit from incorporating yoga exercises into their training program. Do yoga on a regular basis and improve your volleyball performance dramatically! Best of luck!

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Yoga for Volleyball Players

To win a game of volleyball, it’s vital for players to have great strength, flexibility, and stamina. Although some athletes enjoying use weights to build these skills, many are now turning to yoga, instead. A form of low-intensity exercise, yoga can help volleyball players to become stronger, agiler, and even increase their energy levels. As volleyball is a full body sport, players must have strong muscles throughout the body. Often, weight-training builds certain muscle groups but leaves out others. Yoga, on the other hand, uses bodyweight training to build a strong all-over physique. Many postures focus on core strength. In addition to increasing your physical strength, a strong core can increase coordination and balance to help players stay on-target throughout the match. Through a series of stretches, yoga also helps players to become more flexible. Not only will this allow the muscles to stretch further during a game, it also makes them less prone to injury. If you’re interested in using yoga, all you need to get started are some comfortable yoga clothes. During the warmer months, a supportive yoga bra and a pair of sweatpants will be ideal. In this article, we explore yoga for volleyball players further and discuss some of the best asanas to use.

Low Lunge

To practice Low Lunge, begin by standing tall on your mat. Step your right leg forward and lift your hips up and back until they are aligned directly over your left knee. Next, raise both arms up and press your hips down until you feel the muscles engage. You should feel a stretch in your outer hip of your left leg. You are in Low Lunge. Hold the asana for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Sole of Foot Stretch

To perform the Sole of Foot Stretch, begin on all fours. Tuck your toes under and lean back to sit on your heels. Initially, keep your hands on the floor to support you. As the position becomes comfortable you can gradually move your weight onto your heels and move your hands into your lap. You are in Sole of Foot Stretch. Hold the stretch for around 1 minute whilst breathing deeply.

Seated Spinal Twist

Seated Spinal Twist helps to rejuvenate the body by realigning the spine. Additionally, the posture increases flexibility throughout the upper body. With this in mind, the pose is ideal for Volleyball players. To practice the asana, sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bending your right knee, place the bottom of your right foot flat against the mat. Next, bend your left knee and bring your left foot under your right leg. If you can, place your left heel against your right buttock. Place your right palm on the mat just behind your right buttock. Finally, place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. You are in Seated Spinal Twist. To deepen the stretch, twist your upper body a little further with each breath. Hold the pose for around 30 seconds before switching sides.

Ear To Shoulder Pose

Maximising flexibility in the upper body, Ear to Shoulder Pose is ideal for volleyball players. Additionally, the asana can be used to relieve a headache. To practice Ear to Shoulder Pose, take a seat on a chair with your shoulders relaxed and your spine straight. Next, begin to move your chin toward your chest and then slowly move your right ear toward your right shoulder. You are in Ear to Shoulder Pose. To deepen the stretch, place your right hand on your left ear and apply gentle pressure. Hold the pose for around 30 seconds before switching sides.

Shoulder Rolls

Simple and discrete to practice, Shoulder Rolls can be performed anywhere! Much like Ear to Shoulder Pose, Shoulder Rolls maximise flexibility in the upper body. To perform the stretch, sit or stand tall with a straight spine. Next, draw both your shoulders up towards your ears and then draw them back and down towards the ground. Finally, bring them back forwards and repeat the rotation. The exercise can be repeated as many times as required.

Arm Across Chest Pose

Arm Across Chest Pose builds strength and flexibility in the arms and shoulders. To practice the posture, sit comfortably on a chair or your mat. Ensure that your spine is straight and your neck is lengthened. Relax your shoulders and reach your right arm out in front of your before placing it across your chest. Finally, turn your head to the right until you can see over your shoulder. You are in Arm Across Chest Pose. Hold the asana for around 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.

Reclining Big Toe Pose

Designed to alleviate tension in the legs, Reclining Big Toe Pose is another great asana for volleyball play-ers. Additionally, the posture can help to balance the nervous system and increase blood flow. This will allow players to enjoy extra energy when on the pitch. To practice the pose, lay flat on your back upon your mat. Keeping your feet on the ground, bend both your knees and begin to draw your right knee into your chest. If you need to, you can use your hands to help pull your knee in and hold it in position. When your right knee is touching your chest, straighten your left leg and return it to the mat. Use your fingertips to grab hold of your right foot. If possible, straighten your leg completely. You are in Reclining Big Toe Pose. If you can’t straighten your right leg, don’t panic! As long as you can feel a stretch through your ankle and calf you will still feel the benefits of the pose. Hold the asana for around 1 minute before repeating on the other side.

In Summary

Whether you’re hoping to build strength, flexibility, or stamina, practice the poses above to benefit your volleyball game. With the warmer weather, some yogis enjoy practising outside. If you choose to do so, make sure to wear a yoga cap and a good-quality SPF to protect your skin from the UV rays.

Teen Athletes – Do These Yoga Poses to Prevent Injury and Play Harder

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Yoga for teen athletes (that’s you!) is especially important for learning how to breathe while challenging your body physically, to prevent injury, to gain strength, and to be more balanced in your sport of choice.
Did you know that yoga is more than just stretching? It can be one of the hardest workouts you’ve ever done. That’s right! I’ve seen grown men whimper and groan trying to work through some of these poses. Try holding any of these poses for longer than a minute and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Ready for a challenge? Check out our Strengthen and Tone Yoga Program

Here are 10 yoga poses for teen athletes to strengthen, help prevent injury, and improve your performance

This sequence is designed to build upper body, core, and lower body strength. You’ll also move your body in different directions, promoting flexibility that will help prevent injury and keep you playing harder for longer.
There are tons of ways yoga can help prevent injury. Read 5 Ways to Avoid Injury During Yoga

1. Toe Crunch Pose

Yeah . . . this one is just as pleasant as it sounds. But! This pose is perfect for athletes because it reverses the damaging effects of the beating your feet take every day and every game.

Practice Toe Crunch Pose

  • Kneel on your mat or a yoga blanket to support your knees
  • Tuck your toes under (make sure your pinky toe is along for the ride!)
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths

Modifications

  • For less intensity, lean forward or place a yoga block between your heels before you tuck your toes
  • For more intensity, gently and slowly begin to lean back

2. Plank Pose

Plank pose will test your mental strength just about as much as your physical strength. Remember to breathe and stay calm, and you’ll be able to hold this pose way longer than you think.

Practice Plank Pose

  • Find the top of a push up
  • Stack your wrists directly under your shoulders
  • Stay on the balls of your feet, actively pressing energy out through your heels
  • Engage your core to find strength and protect your low back
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths

Modifications

  • For less intensity, drop your knees to the mat
  • For more intensity, try alternately hovering your feet off the mat

3. Low Plank Pose

Ready to strengthen your whole body with one pose? Low Plank Pose hits it all – arms, core, and legs. As I tell my students . . . if you’re not shaking, you’re not doing it right!
Practice Low Plank Pose

  • Find Plank Pose
  • Lower halfway down, keeping your arms at a 90 degree angle and close to your sides
  • Keep your core engaged to remain in one strong line from your head to your toes
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths

Modifications

  • For less intensity, drop your knees to your mat
  • For more intensity, hold for as long as you can. You know you’re ready to come down when you can no longer hold a strong and straight line

4. Upward-Facing Dog Pose

Athletes tend to spend a lot of time in forward motion – running, swinging, hitting, kicking. Upward-Facing Dog Pose stretches out that hunching forward while strengthening through your arms and core.
Practice Upward-Facing Dog Pose

  • Lie face down with your palms under your shoulders and your elbows pointing up
  • Rest the tops of your feet on your mat
  • Press into your hands, extending the arms straight to roll your torso up
  • Engage your legs to lift your kneecaps off your mat
  • Roll your shoulders back and keep your gaze forward
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths

Modifications

  • For less intensity, keep your thighs on your mat and your elbows slightly bent
  • For more intensity, alternate between Upward-Facing Dog and Low Plank Pose for a challenging take on push-ups

5. Side Plank Pose

This side plank variation – also known as Rockstar Pose – is great for athletes because it’s a core strengthener and balance posture all in one.
Practice Rockstar Pose

  • Find Plank Pose
  • Shift your weight to your right hand and foot, and stack the left side of your body over the right
  • Engage your core to lift your hips high
  • Lift your top leg
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

Modifications

  • For less intensity, lower your bottom knee or skip lifting your top leg
  • For more intensity, add oblique crunches by mindfully lowering and lifting your hips

6. Low Lunge Twist

Twists work on flexibility through your spine to prevent injury from fast-jerk motions. The combination of a low lunge and twist is great for stretching through your hips and spine all at once.
Practice Low Lunge Twist

  • Find an all-fours position in Tabletop Pose
  • Bring your right foot up between your hands, keeping your knee stacked over your ankle
  • Engage your core to lift your torso up and bring your hands to heart center
  • Twist towards your front knee, hooking your elbow to the outside of your leg
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

Modifications

  • For less intensity, simply twist to look over your right shoulder instead of hooking your elbow
  • For more intensity, lift your back leg to a full lunge

7. High Lunge Pose

This pose builds strength in your quads and glutes, making it the perfect way to train for intense plyometrics. It also provides a deep stretch in your hip flexors.
Practice High Lunge Pose

  • Find Plank Pose
  • Step your right foot between your hands, keeping your knee stacked over your ankle
  • With the heel of your back foot directly over your toes, lift your torso
  • Keep your back leg straight and strong, and sink your hips closer to your mat
  • Reach your arms up and allow your gaze to follow
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

Modifications

  • For less intensity, drop your back knee
  • For more intensity, start to look and reach back to create a gentle backbend

8. Warrior 2 Pose

Athletes need some Warrior 2 Pose in their lives because it strengthens your legs, pushes you to a mental edge, and works on flexibility in your hips to help you move easier.
Practice Warrior 2 Pose

  • Find High Lunge Pose
  • Pivot your back heel down at a 45 degree angle (you should be able to draw an imaginary line that connects the heel of your front foot with the arch of your back foot)
  • Open your hips to square off with the long edge of your mat
  • Lunge into your front knee, keeping your knee stacked directly over your ankle
  • Keep your back leg strong and straight
  • Reach your arms out like a “T”
  • Gaze over your front fingers
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

Modifications

  • For less intensity, keep your hands on your hips or lessen the depth of your lunge
  • For more intensity, sink into your lunge until your bent leg reaches a 90 degree angle and hold for longer

9. Standing Figure Four Pose

Ah, balance. Balance postures can be tricky because they require focus, core strength, and a sense of unmessablewithness. Standing Figure Four Pose offers a hip opening stretch as well as a balance challenge.
Practice Standing Figure Four Pose

  • Find Mountain Pose, standing tall and proud
  • Bring your right ankle over your left knee, creating a “4” shape
  • Send your hips back as you sit lower into your imaginary chair
  • Bring your hands to heart center
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

Modifications

  • For less intensity, don’t sit so low in your imaginary chair
  • For more intensity, fold over and reach your fingertips to the earth

10. Tree Pose

Tree pose can also be incredibly humbling. This balance posture is fantastic for helping to prevent injury because every time you wobble and wiggle, you’re building strength and flexibility in your ankles.
Practice Tree Pose

  • Find Mountain Pose, standing tall and proud
  • Bring your right foot against the inside of your left ankle, shin, or thigh, but not against your knee
  • Engage your core to energetically press your right knee out, and square your hips
  • Bring your hands to heart center
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

Modifications

  • For less intensity, keep your foot balancing at your ankle
  • For more intensity, reach up or maybe even look up

Now, go play harder, faster, and stronger!

So, can yoga be a little more difficult than you expected? Athletes like yourself are already capable of amazing things, and practicing this yoga sequence will make you even stronger. As you master these 10 poses, start to hold each one for longer to keep the intensity up!
And – as we close every yoga sesh – Namaste.

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Yoga poses for athletes

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