Yoga doesn’t just help to develop a strong and flexible body, but it also builds a calm and strong mind. For this reason, yoga is a great practice for athletes. It improves body posture and gives greater balance. For these reasons, more and more athletes are slowly turning to yoga. Professional athletes like LeBron James, Evan Longoria, Patrick Peterson, Kevin Love and Russell Wilson have stated that yoga helps both their mind and body stay healthy as well as focused. Did you know that the Seattle Seahawks made yoga mandatory in their training program ahead of the championship season? If you’re an athlete you could really benefit from adding yoga to your training regimen. Studies have proved that it improves flexibility, balance, agility, endurance and overall strength. It also gives relief from stress and anxiety. Whether you’re into tennis, golf, soccer or track, here are 10 yoga poses that should be incorporated into the routine of every athlete.
Begin with a simple breathing exercise and your mind will be calm and composed. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and take a slow and deep breath. Raise your arms above your head and press your palms together while you inhale. Lower your hands to your chest in the Anjali mudra and close your eyes. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth three times.
Eagle pose (garudasana)
Cross your left thigh over your right thigh. Hook your left foot on your right ankle or shin. Wrap your left arm under your right arm and press your palms together. Bend your knees, hold the pose and breathe deeply. Unwind after five breaths and repeat on the other side. This asana targets tight shoulders and helps in stretching the shoulders and back, strengthens the legs and improves balance.
Place your feet wide apart, bend your knees and squat. Press your arms together in front of your chest and bring your elbows in front of your knees. Repeat this five your ten times. This asana improves ankle, knee and foot strength and mobility.
Cat & cow pose (bitilasana & marjaryasana)
Get on all fours with your hands and knees on the floor in an animal posture. Inhale while you lift your head and arch your spine. Exhale while you round your back. Repeat this for ten times. This particular asana targets the tight and sore back muscles. It stretches the back, massages the spine and relieves tension in the upper body.
Thread the needle
Remain on all fours with your hands and knees on the floor. Lift your right arm up and inhale. Exhale and reach your right arm under your body to the left. Lower your right shoulder to the floor. Come back on to your hands and knees. Repeat the same on the other side. You can also do this pose in a supine position or lying on your back. Lift your right foot and bring it across your left thigh letting the right ankle rest on the left thigh. Take hold of the back of the left thigh and gently pull that leg towards your chest. Hold for a minute while keeping the back flat on the ground. Repeat on the other side too.
Downward dog (adho mukha svanasana)
Stretch your hamstrings, calves and shoulders with this asana that will also relieve headaches, fatigue and insomnia. Get into the downward dog pose by lifting your hips towards the ceiling so your body appears to be a triangle. Bend your right elbow towards the floor and then switch arms. Inhale and shrug your shoulders, exhale and pull your shoulders away from your ears. Inhale and lift your right leg high behind you, bend your right knee and bring your right foot between your hands. Repeat with the other leg.
Warrior pose (virabhadrasana)
Breathe deeply, square your hips, lower your shoulders and look up with your arms raised above your head. Lower your arms to your sides and clasp your hands behind your back. Inhale and lift your chest, exhale and bend forward lowering your head toward the inside of your right knee. Inhale and lift your torso back up, exhale and bend towards the other side.
Step the left foot forward in a good stretch. Inhale and sweep the left arm above, opening the chest and shoulders. Twist and wrap the left arm around the backside. Stay in the pose for five breaths and then switch sides.
Get into push up position with your torso parallel to the floor. Hold the pose for a minute to strengthen your core.
To finish your yoga routine, lie flat on your back in a relaxed posture. Extend your arms along your side with the palms facing the ceiling. Breathe deeply and continue for 5 minutes.