Yoga is a cross training tool that can be used to give you that extra edge against your competitors. Whether you are an athlete training for your next competition or a weekend warrior participating in weekly HIIT or Strength classes, everyone can benefit from a little more yoga in their life.
Practicing yoga aids muscle recovery between workouts, injury prevention, increasing flexibility,reducing stress, increasing focus, and relieving tension. Yoga sequences focus on strengthening, stretching, and balance throughout the body.
How does yoga aid in recovery between workouts and how does that effect my performance? The goal of recovery is the clear the body of waste products, including lactic acid, to allow the fibers to function again. Hydration helps by flushing waste products out of the body, but proper stretching of the muscles with rapidly restore function. Stretching post exercise improves elasticity within the muscle, increasing range of movement throughout the joint and minimizing muscle tightness from previous workouts. This translates into a strong muscle activation during competitions or while performing exercises where maximal strength is required.
How does yoga prevent injuries? Typical muscle injuries occur from improper warm up, quick twists or movements that stress the joints, muscle imbalances, tightness of high-trained muscle that lose flexibility, and overuse of muscles. Yoga sequences begin with a warm up that prepare muscles and connective tissue for exercise. Yoga postures strengthen muscles surrounding major joints (ankles, knees) thus allowing quick and explosive movements to occur without injury. Most sports include continuous repetitive movements which lead to muscle imbalances and posture compensations. Yoga postures focus on restoring balance to the entire body reducing the probability of injury.
Lastly with strength building flexibility is often sacrificed. This leads to muscle tightness and even further to muscles strains, tears, and potentially season ending injuries. Yoga postures focus on muscle lengthening which in turn optimizing the body and allows the athlete to lift heavier loads. With proper flexibility are able to perform at there full potential and become more stable structures as a whole.
How can yoga reduce stress, increase focus and relieve tension? Often times we are running on high speed and not in touch with our own bodies. Following a yoga sequence and performing a series of stretches focuses your brain on the present and past or future. The stress hormone cortisol is carried in your body during stressful times. While practicing yoga, you go through a series of movements, various poses and concentrated breathing, all of which decreases your levels of cortisol. Ever notice how after participating in a yoga class you feel relaxed and less stress? Well this is why. By focusing your attention on the movement and your breath you stress hormones decrease allowing you to feel more relaxed and less stressed after your classes.
Breathing is the last and maybe even the most influential part in yoga practice. Often times we breath unconsciously and inefficiently. Breathing techniques are used in strength and conditioning sessions when lifting heavy loads. By retraining our bodies how to breath efficiently we can improve our performance and maximize the amount of oxygen getting to our muscles. Breathing does not only translate in strength training but also into reducing stress. Ever notice when you are stressed out or in an anxious state of mind, focusing your attention on your breath will calm you mind down. This is why, bring you attention to your breath and away from other surrounding factors relaxes your body and brings you back into a calm state of mind.
Which Poses should I Perform and When?
Leg up the Wall Pose
After a hard workout and the legs are feeling heavy and fatigued perform the ‘Leg Up The Wall Pose’. This exercise improves circulation and lets the fluids drain back into the lymphatic system. This allows your muscles to bounce back after a workout by reenergizing the body and quieting the mind.
Step 1: Face a wall.
Step 2: Lie on your back, and put your legs straight up the wall.
Step 3: Your hips can either touch the wall or be a few inches away from the wall.
Step 4: Relax your arms by your sides and your palms facing up.
Step 5: Relax in the pose for at least 5 minutes; 10 – 15 is better.
Muscle Strengthening Flow Sequence
Upward Facing Dog Pose – Cobra Pose – Downward Facing Dog Pose
These three movements are often used in sequence of one another. These poses provides a balance stretch and includes a lot of the major muscles groups within the body. For injury prevention and muscle strength follow these three movements.
Upward Facing Dog Pose
Muscles: Triceps, infraspinatus, and teres minor, rhomboids, trapezius, quadriceps, gluteus maximus.
Step 1: Lie facedown with your hands placed on the mat and under your shoulders.
Step 2: Inhale as you lift your chest and straighten your arms.
Step 3: Roll over your toes to the tops of your feet.
Step 4: Engage your quadriceps to lift your knees off the floor, keeping your legs straight.
Step 5: Keep your shoulders down and back, away from your ears.
Step 6: Pull your shoulder blades toward each other and down and back.
Step 7: Align the shoulders over the wrists.
Step 8: Keep your palms pressing down into your mat, maintaining straight arms.
Step 9: Gaze forward to lengthen and relax your neck.
Step 10: Push your shoulders back as your shoulder blades press down.
Muscles: Rectus abdominis, quadriceps, sartorius, pectoralis major, deltoids.
Step 1: Lie facedown with your legs extended, your arms down along your sides, and your forehead resting on the mat.
Step 2: Bend your elbows, then plant your hands on the mat next to your rib cage.
Step 3: Lift your forehead off the floor, lengthening your chest forward and upward as you softly press your palms into the mat.
Step 4: At the same time, stretch your legs as you engage your quadriceps and press the tops of your feet down into the mat.
Step 5: Keep your abdominal muscles engaged, and tuck your tail bone toward your heels while in the pose.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Muscles: Triceps, infraspinatus, teres minor, rhomboids, trapezius, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, hamstrings, gastrocnemius and soles, gluteal muscles
Step 1: Lie facedown with your hands on the mat underneath your shoulders.
Step 2: Exhale as you lift your hips up and back and roll over your toes.
Step 3: Press into your hands to lengthen your arms.
Step 4: Roll your shoulders out away from your ears.
Step 5: Relax your neck.
Step 6: Lengthen your spine as you lift your hips.
Step 7: Press down through your heels, and straighten your legs.
Step 8: Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart and your index fingers point to the top of your mat.
Step 9: Separate the fingers wide.
Relax the Mind & Focus on the Breath
Seated Cross Legged Pose
Focus on relaxing the mind and being in the present. Allow your mind to focus solely on the inhale and exhale of your breath. This pose is an amazing way to start off your morning or to unwind after a busy day. It allows you to focus on your breathing and to be in the present. Typically our brain wonders to the past or the future. It is seldom we live in the present, this pose allows you to refocus your attention on what is important which is living and embracing the moment and the meaningful people we surround ourselves with.
Muscles: Psoas, quadrature lumborum, erector spinae, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, rectus abdominus
Step 1: Sit on the floor.
Step 2: Ben both knees, crossing your feet at the ankles.
Step 3: Sit tall, lengthening your spine through the top of your head.
Step 4: Relax your shoulders away from your ears.
Step 5: Place your hands on your knees.
Step 6: Look forward and sit for 2 – 10 minutes.
Step 7: Acknowledged when your mind wonders, but bring back your focus to the breath.
Muscles: No muscles are worked; you should be completely relaxed. Focus your attention on your breath. Acknowledge when mind wonders to the past or the future, however do not reprimand your mind, simply bring your attention back to you breathing.
Step 1: Lie on the mat on your back.
Step 2: Extend you leg and relax them, letting your feet fall to the sides.
Step 3: Lengthen your arms out to your sides with your palms facing up.
Step 4: Close your eyes.
Step 5: Let go of any tension you are holding in your body.
Step 6: Let your breath flow naturally. Think about belly breathing and allowing you rib cage to expand out to the sides as you inhale.
Step 7: Try and focus your attention on the present and on the breath. As thoughts flow through your mind, try and bring your attention back to the present.
Thanks for reading and if you are interested in learning more about sport specific yoga poses or our latest post on ‘Remembering to Breathe’ click on the following link. https://wp.me/P9Z7DO-5