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Yoga for Athletes

I have always been an athlete, I will always be an athlete. I am also a yoga teacher. Quite possibly and realistically I am the most inflexible yoga teacher in Rochester. So don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes, that’s not what yoga is about.

A few years ago I created the Yoga for Athletes program at Breathe Yoga and had the ability to work with the Rochester Rhinos (Rochester’s professional soccer team). I created a yoga program that embraces the parts of Power Vinyasa that are emphasize dynamic, whole body movements, incorporate strength and at the same time…. work the areas that we as athletes need to work on.

I studied the movement patterns of soccer players, swimmers, cyclists, runners, golfers and came up with the poses and program that will help not only increase flexibility and strength, but improves range of motion. What I didn’t want to do in this program is what we have all tried to do for too long… make an athlete a yogi.

Instead I aim to bring the yoga to the athlete. There is so much we can gain from this historic practice that will not only help us in our physical game, but our mental game as well.

On this page you will find poses each week that will help do all of what was said above. (I won’t use sanskrit, although I know, respect it and use it in my open level classes.).I won’t ask you to sit still, and I won’t ask you to do anything that you wouldn’t do in your sport in terms of approach.

Please feel free to post a question, something you want to share, pose suggestion, anything. You can do that in the comments, on FaceBook, and Twitter (@maryeggers) Every Saturday you will find something new right here. For you…. the athlete!!!!!!

Chair Pose

As a triathlete I love this pose. I spent 10-12 hours of the week on a bike, so this position is very natural for me!

Why we do it.
Chair is a great pose for strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes (butt). It’s also beneficial for stretching the calves and the Achilles tendons as well.

This is also a good pose to stretch and strengthen the Iliotibial band, (IT band) which can be a hot spot for many runners.

Depending on what you do with your arms it can stretch through the sides of the body, and help open up the chest.

How we do it.

1. Begin with your feet either together or hip distance apart, because you can do this pose either way. Just remember if you feet are together your knees are together, and vice versa.

2. Bend your knees and sit your hips back like you are trying to sit into a chair at the back end of the mat. Ground into your heels.

3. Keep your knees in line with or behind your toes. I find that if you bring your knees beyond the front of your toes you rely more on the quads and less on the glutes and hamstrings. This is a whole leg type of pose, so use the back of the leg too! Ground into your heels.

3. Engage your core and lift your chest. Arms can be above your head with palms facing each other to ensure your shoulders are down (think… tuck your shoulder blades into your back pockets). for those who have shoulder issues or it’s more comfortable keep your hands at your heart, press your palms together and keep your shoulders down. Or simply bring your hands to your hips.

chair pose YFA

This week’s pose: Downward Facing Dog. For the Athlete.

Downward Facing Dog is a pose we use a lot in Yoga and in Yoga for Athletes. It is very often assumed that people just know how to do it and is widely “mis-instructed”.

Why we do it:

1. It helps to stretch the hamstrings, calves,  lower back.

2. It helps to strengthen the shoulder girdle.

3. It’s also a form of an inversion which simply means… head below your heart. Getting upside down is a big thing in yoga, and it’s intimidating. We will get into inversions and their purposes another day.

How we do it.

1. It is CRITICAL that we “plug in” to the ground as we say, with our hands and our feet, otherwise the strain will be felt in our wrists. You will be in an inverted V shape.

2. Your hands and feet are shoulder and hip distance apart respectively. Don’t be afraid to go wider from right to left to give yourself from space.

3. Find the inner triad of your hand, the space between the first finger knuckle and thumb knuckle. That is the strongest part of your hand. Press deeply there first then distribute the weight evenly into the palm / knuckle of your hand. Press your hands down and forward like you are trying to push the front edge of the mat forward.

3. Elbows slightly bent. That keeps us out of the joint and in the muscle.

4. Head hangs. Look toward the knees or back wall.

5. Shoulders roll onto your back. Think of tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets.

6. Most of us who are athletes will keep the knees bent. The “goal” of this pose is not to put our heels on the floor” We can still get a fantastic stretch in the hamstrings and calves without the strain of trying to force the legs to be straight.

7. Press into the knuckles behind the toes and use your feet to “drag the mat behind you”

Other points:

1. Hands press down and forward, feet pull the mat behind you, so the weight….. comes into your hips (in a good way!)

2. The lower back should not round, it should be neutral. When this pose is done correctly you feel a GOOD lower back stretch.

3. Let your head hang loose. Don’t hunch the neck

4. Be stable in your shoulder girdle. I see many people do this pose with hunched shoulders. Shoulder blades into the back pockets. Shoulder injuries are the number one yoga injuries and while they most often happen in the anterior deltoid (Front of the shoulder) habits like hunching the shoulders in down dog don’t help.

downward-facing-dog-yoga-pose

One comment

  1. Love it!! Although I might rival you as the most inflexible yoga instructor in Rochester. 🙂



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