Many of us have the same mentality when it comes to sports- we are invincible. Unfortunately, we all learn as athletes that tight muscles and injuries are part of an active lifestyle. I have a tendency to overdo it when it comes to training for beach volleyball, so I turn to a therapeutic and strengthening yoga practice to help keep my body healthy and pain free. For professional athletes or weekend warriors, yoga is not only a great way to lengthen tight muscles and reduce the risk of injury, it can also calm the mind in the midst of an active life. It does not take long to notice the incredible benefits of yoga. Some of these include:
- Increased flexibility and range of motion
- Improved balance and strength
- Relief of stress and anxiety
These poses lengthen the muscles, while building total body strength as a foundation for all power movements. Perform each posture for 5-10 deep breaths. Repeat the series 3 times.
Targets the hamstrings and low back
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hinge at the hips and fall forward over both legs. Let head hang heavy and release all tension in shoulders and neck.
- To come back to standing, deeply engage the abdominals and flatten the spine. Engage the glutes, shift hips back and come all the way up.
Straight Arm Plank
Strengthens the core and builds external rotation in the shoulders
- Come onto hands and knees with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Draw shoulder blades toward one another and deeply engage the core.
- Extend legs back to straight. Maintain a long line from head to heels.
Enhances total body strength
- From a straight arm plank position, deeply bend the elbows and lower down to hover chest over floor. Maintain length through the spine and chin off the chest.
- Hold on knees or toes, keeping back straight.
Reduces tension thru the hamstrings and improves mobility in the shoulders
- Move back into a straight arm plank with wrists under shoulders. Press palms into the floor and shift hips up and back.
- If hamstrings are tight, keep a bend in the knees. Draw shoulder blades together and let head hang heavy.
Improves mobility in the hips and strengthens the thoracic spine
- From downward dog, step right foot between hands. Turn right toes out and left toes slightly in. Deeply bend right knee until it is over the ankle and thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Extend arms directly out from shoulders. Continue to reach in opposing directions as you hold and breath.
- Switch sides after 5-10 deep breaths.
Opens up energy channels in side body and releases tension in hips
- From warrior II, reach right arm up and left arm back and down. Place hand above or below the knee. Maintain a deep bend in the right leg.
- Turn chin upward and draw shoulder blades down and back. Keep core engaged the entire time.
Improves balance and ankle stability
- Place all the weight on right foot. Slowly kick left leg up as you hinge forward, bringing torso close to parallel with the floor.
- Extend arms up and back. Maintain a straight spine and slight bend in the standing leg. Option- start with left leg on the floor and lift it up a couple inches. Place it back down and repeat.