Practiced worldwide for thousands of years, it’s no secret that yoga can bring with it a variety of health benefits. In recent years, modern athletes have begun incorporating the ancient art into their training schedules, believing that it can improve their performance and even make them less prone to injury. Whether you’re preparing for an endurance event or just looking to add something new to your workout, practising yoga regularly can help to strengthen the muscles and significantly improve flexibility. Better still, each posture can be practised from the comfort of your living room. All you need is a comfortable yoga mat and some breathable clothing – then you’re good to go! Below, we explore some of the best yoga poses for athletes.
Working to strengthen both your abdominal muscles and hips, Boat Pose is a great posture for athletes to practice regularly. To begin, sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Next, place your hands on the floor just a little behind your hips, ensuring that your fingertips are pointing towards your feet. Press your palms firmly into the ground as you strengthen your arms. Keeping your back straight, gently lean back and lift your feet off the ground. Your shins should now be parallel to the floor. As you lift your chest, lengthen the front of your torso. Finally, extend both arms forward until they are in line with your shoulders. You are in Boat Pose. Hold the pose for 30 seconds whilst breathing deeply. For best results, try drawing your chin into your chest. This action brings the base of the skull away from the neck, allowing the body to enjoy a deeper stretch.
Great for promoting flexibility, Cobra Pose is a favourite amongst many athletes. To begin, lie down on your mat with your stomach touching the ground. Lengthen your legs, keeping the tops of your feet on the floor. Next, place your hands flat on the ground, letting them lie directly under your shoulders. Gently draw your elbows back into your body whilst pressing your thighs and the tops of your feet into the ground. Stay in this position for a couple of seconds, remembering to breathe deeply. When you are ready, begin to lift your chest off the ground by straightening both arms. Finally, press your tailbone firmly into the floor and engage your buttocks. You are in Cobra Pose. For best results, draw your shoulder blades towards your back and distribute the stretch evenly throughout the spine. Hold the posture for around 30 seconds before releasing the backbend and lowering yourself back down to the floor.
One of the simplest postures out there, Legs Up The Wall Pose primarily stretches the muscles in your neck. Additionally, many yogis believe that this asana can cure a variety of other ailments and health issues, too. To begin, place the shortest side of your yoga mat against a wall. When your mat is in place, sit down facing the wall. Gently lie back on the mat and extend both legs up the wall. Make sure that your bottom is almost touching the wall and that your legs are close together. You can either rest your hands on your stomach or on the mat – whichever feels most comfortable. You are in Legs Up The Wall Pose. Close your eyes and relax, holding the pose for around 5 minutes.
Bridge Pose is another great asana for athletes. As you bend, the posture gently compresses the body; as your release the stretch, fresh blood flows through the body to cleanse your system. In addition to being great for your overall health, this pose can also relieve fatigue. Start this pose laying on your back, bending your knees whilst keeping the soles of your feet touching the ground. Relax your arms, letting them drop carefully to the sides of your body. Tuck your chin into your chest then lift your buttocks and back off the floor, creating a bridge. You are in Bridge Pose. Hold for 15 seconds before lowering your back and buttocks back down to the ground.
Ideal for athletes looking to build strength in their upper arms, Dolphin Pose works to engage all the relevant muscles. To practice the pose, begin on all fours. Ensuring your knees are set directly beneath your hips, bring your forearms down to the floor with your shoulders above your hands. Once in position, touch your palms together whilst keeping your forearms on the floor.
Next, curl your toes under and gently lift your knees away from the ground. Begin to lengthen your tailbone and lift your bottom towards the ceiling. Your body should now form an upside-down ‘V’ shape. At this stage, beginners may find it easier to keep their knees slightly bent. Keeping your forearms pressed firmly into the floor, engage your shoulder blades by drawing them towards your back. It’s important to not let your head hang aimlessly when in this position; instead, support it between your upper arms. You are now in Dolphin Pose. Hold the asana for around 30 seconds before bringing your knees back down to the floor.
Whether you’re a professional athlete or you’re just starting out, practice the routine above to reap the benefits. To avoid injury, it’s important to keep your muscles warm before beginning your workout. With this in mind, it can be a good idea to pick up a good-quality hoodie to keep you warm in the colder months – especially if you decide to venture to a local class.