Olympics fever is here….the sporting bug is out and about…. And it’a catching us all like wild fire. Go on…admit it…you’ve been dusting off your trainers and pulling out the tennis racquet from under the stairs havn’t you? The flared tracksuit bottoms have re-discovered their dharma in life havn’t they?
Unfortunately with this fabulous sporting craze comes with it the inevitable wave of injuries as you pummel muscles that have been left sweltering in jeans for years, expecting them to perform as lithe teenage muscles when they have actually become old elastic bands!
Never fear…yoga is here….
It can be easy to see yoga as just a bit of stretching, a bit of relaxation and some core moves thrown in to make you feel good. In our haste to get to the treadmill or the spin class, we can forget the power of yoga to condition and prepare your body for sport, to re-set muscle lengths, and ultimately, prevent or at least minimize, injuries. Yoga will also improve your capacity for sport, and your endurance.
As you may know yoga is said to work on many levels – physically it stretches, strengthens and tones the muscle groups. Emotionally it brings balance and inner control. Mentally it helps bring a little bit of calm and perspective to our lives, and spiritually it helps us to connect to our highest potential. Balance on all these levels is essential to all of us – but especially if you’re an athlete or practice sport regularly.
BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR ATHLETES
> Deep, full breathing
The way we breathe can deeply impact on our performance as athletes. The ability to breathe deeply, using the full lung capacity, enables our endurance to increase, by giving our muscles much needed oxygen. Deep breathing helps to improve our body awareness, making us less prone to injury.
> Develop core stability
Essential for maintaining a strong back and a stable pelvic area, our core stability muscles are a vital ingredient in an athlete’s training programme. The lower abdomen, pelvic floor muscles, diaphragm and lumbar multifidus (the back muscles closest to the spine) form a cylinder of strength. Most important is the gentle activation of transverse abdominal muscles, which involuntarily also activate the lumbar multifidus.
> Injury prevention
Dru Yoga is all about flow, stretching and strengthening specific muscle groups. Depending on the type of activity you do, you’ll find that you’ll be tight in one area and looser in others. Yoga helps to stretch out those areas which are too tight – often preventing spasm and other injuries, whilst also helping to balance muscle tone, and re-establishing muscle length after sport.
Keeping calm with clear perspective and focus is essential for any athlete. It is the mental attitude which brings the results – not just the physical capability. Any athlete will tell you confidence is absolutely key to success in sport. Yoga helps to establish mind and body awareness, builds confidence, heightens mental focus, and helps you to maintain your emotional balance during and after your practice.
In order to keep your body performing at peak performance one of the essential factors is that of preparation. Stretching the correct muscles, general cardio-vascular activation and mental preparation. Although each activity utilises a slightly different set of muscles, there are some which are very common and that often need to be prepared.
Here are two for you to practice at home. Remember; no heroics – there shouldn’t be any pain! Hold the stretches for a minimum of 30 seconds – this is the actual length of time it take for the muscle to stretch properly – its important not to rush these stretches in order for you to get the most out of them.
> Hamstring stretch
Whatever your chosen sport the hamstring muscles are often very tight, but with regular practice these muscles will slowly loosen enabling you to become more flexible, give you a great range of motion and help prevent injury.
Lying on your back, bend both knees, feet flat on the floor. Take a yoga strap, tie, or scarf and place it around the sole of one foot. Contract the core muscles – keeping the lower back pressed against the floor and straighten that leg, pushing the heel up towards the ceiling. Slowly draw the foot towards you. Only go as far as you can comfortably – the knee of the straight leg should not be bent. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
> Gastrocnemius stretch
The calves are another susceptable area for tension in athletes. This gastrocnemius stretch is a great quick fix stretch!
From standing, step one foot forwards, keeping both heels on the floor. With both feet facing forwards, contract your abdominal muscles and bend the front knee, gently pressing back down through the back heel. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Slowly release, step back and repeat on the other side.
DRU YOGA ONLINE STUDIO
Yoga for Athletes – warming up with Coby Langford
Release date: 1/8/12
This is a great 20 min programme, specifically designed for athletes to prepare the body for intense exercise. So whether you’re about to jog round the block, join in at the Olympics, or get out the racquets on the courts, this programme stretches all the main muscle groups, preparing you for a safe sporting experience!
Yoga for Athletes – cool down with Coby Langford
Release date: 15/8/12
This short programme, takes you through your full range of movement, and uses static stretches to re-set your muscle length, help get rid of lactic acid build up and keeps your body flexible and uninjured! This cool down is designed to be used after intense exercise, please do not use this class if your muscles are cold.