An Introduction to Yoga for Athletes
November 19, 2013
November 19, 2013
As yoga coaches for athletes, we pay special attention to each athlete’s individual needs. Sport specific training is very intense and we understand the different needs and abilities required for each sport and all different body types. Sport training can provide strength in some areas and weaknesses in others. Flexibility is a common necessity that is missing from most athletes. Flexibility is key in performing well. We are here to provide you with the appropriate guidelines for incorporating flexibility and balance training in your practice.
Guideline #1: Understand the Athlete’s Body
Athlete is a broad term, covering everyone from high school cheerleader to professional football player. Each sport will produce a different type of athlete.
Baron Baptiste, who has taught yoga to many professional athletes and who spent five years on the coaching staff at the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, sees one common theme in athletes’ bodies: one-dimensionality. “There is a lot of overdevelopment in certain areas, and in other areas there is underdevelopment,” he says.
We are here to help our students adapt to their practices to suit their individual needs, regardless of being on a team.
Guideline #2: Use Proper Sequencing for Athletes
Classes should be designed with a goal in mind. Classes should always begin with a warm up. Regardless if the athlete is already warm from practice, yoga will loosen up joints and muscles not used in the typical sport specific training. The middle of the class will help to build the athlete up to particular strength and flexibility poses, such as sun salutations and standing poses. A cool down is even necessary in yoga. Some cool downs can consist of a mindful practice, recognizing your core purpose and acknowledging your bodies capabilities.
Guideline #3: Treat Injured Athletes Kindly
As former athletes, we began our yoga practice as a healing mechanism. Most athletes will resort to yoga when all else fails. This is great because yoga practice can truly be medicinal. However, we are here to incorporate this practice to prevent you from ever having to resort to ONLY yoga practice.
The tightness of muscles an athlete acquires from rigorous sport training leads to risk of injury. While yoga is not a quick fix, a steady, committed practice will aid in prevention.
Guideline #4: Discourage Competition in Class
I know all too well that this is a very hard concept to grasp for athletes. Competition is primarily the focus of all sports. However, yoga practice is an individual practice to help you personally grow physically and mentally. Yoga’s emphasis on mental focus and being in the moment has direct application to sport. One very important factor of yoga is requiring you to focus. Focus plays a huge role in all sports. You must learn to block everything out and focus on a free throw, or standing at the starting line on a track. Learning to focus on yourself in yoga will increase your mental capacity to focus in a game.