Fusing the mind and body
Athletes can benefit from yoga’s approach to core strength. Plenty of major sports teams and athletes work yoga into their pre- and post-season workouts.
Some athletes will begin yoga because of an overuse injury. Others are at risk for new injury because of a lack of flexibility.
Yoga is a great way for athletes to properly strengthen the muscles of the core, using poses such as Boat Pose (pictured) and Bridge Pose. These postures will improve alignment and lessen imbalances that lead to overuse injuries, such as IT band syndrome (a common cause of hip and knee pain in runners), tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon), and plantar fasciitis (pain on the underside of the heel).
While working with athletes, it is always important to be especially careful with adjustments. Athletes can be easily injured when an untrained hand is too heavy. The strong and tight body of an athlete is like a guitar string that you tighten up to get the highest possible resonance. Athletes with tight shoulders and hips are especially susceptible to two common yoga injuries, rotator-cuff problems and damage to the hamstrings’ attachment to the sitting bones. Appropriate body alignment is stressed to protect these areas.
Yoga’s emphasis on mental focus and being present in the moment has direct application to sport, which can be a challenge for athletes. Yoga is about body awareness, focusing on your body’s alignment and focusing your energy. It’s about learning to block out everything and draw focus inward, whether you’re shooting a free throw, stepping up to bat, or standing on the starting line in a marathon.
Athletes can take away a new meaning of their sport, making it their yoga practice, instead of living in a win-lose world. It can truly help the athlete perform better and connect mind to body.
Coming into Boat Pose:
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips, fingers pointing toward the feet, and brace the arms. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly. As you do this, make sure your back doesn’t round; continue to lengthen the front of your torso between the pubis and top sternum. Sit on the “tripod” of your two sitting bones and tailbone. Draw your knees towards your chest for a modified Boat pose or extend your legs towards the ceiling. Keep your chest lifted and your shoulder blades drawing down your back.
- Strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine
Chantal Laurin is a registered yoga teacher and the owner of CYL Yoga and Fitness Studio.