I added a new yoga class to my teaching schedule this week. Yoga for Athletic Recovery at Next Level Fitness Studio. I taught my first class yesterday and I am super excited about the possibilities of this class! People come to Next Level because they are athletes; they love the intense spin, kick-boxing, weight based circuit classes, and bootcamps that Next Level offers. Stretching and recovery are not at the top of their list, but they all know it’s important. I’m hoping this class fills that void and those athletes will take an hour out of their Sunday to renew and restore their body for the upcoming week.
As an athlete, yoga can enhance your performance and help prevent injury. A well-rounded yoga practice includes dynamic flexibility training, core stabilization, strengthening and balance work. By focusing on these vital elements, yoga can help you recover faster after workouts, open up the tight areas that hinder performance, improve range of motion, and develop mental focus and concentration.
Sports Illustrated also wrote this great article of The Rise in Yoga in the NBA.
I had a general game plan before I went into class, but before we started I asked if there was anything they really wanted to focus on; hamstrings were a LOUD favorite! I led them through an hour long sequence that worked our entire body, but gave special attention to their hamstrings, hips, and psoas muscles.
Here are a few of the poses we worked through, and my favorite way to release my hamstrings:
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Sit on the floor, press actively through your heels. Keeping your spine long, fold from your hip joints. Think about lengthening from your tailbone through the crown of your head as you fold, not rounding your back to get closer to your legs. Aim your heart for your legs as opposed to the crown of your head. If needed, loop a strap or towel around the soles of your feet and grasp the strap firmly with your hands to find the fold. This is also a great low back release!
Half Front Splits (Ardha Hanumanasana)
Come into a low lunge with (in this case) your left foot forward. Shift your hips back, making sure your hips are stacked directly over your right knee. Straighten your left leg, flexing through your foot, pressing through your heel. Energetically draw the left leg back, moving your left femur back into the hip socket. Pull your shoulder blades back and down, moving your shoulders away from ears; find length from the crown of the head to tailbone. Place your hands either on the ground on opposites sides of your left leg, or use blocks/books to bring the ground a little closer to you.
Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet on the floor. Bend your right knee into your chest, place a belt/strap/towel around the ball of your right foot, and straighten your right leg toward the ceiling. If possible, extend your left leg on to the mat. If your hamstrings are tight, they will tend to curl the base of your pelvis up off the floor. To counteract this, firmly press your left hamstring onto the floor, you will feel your lower back raise slightly.
Holding on to the strap, gently bring your right leg into your torso but don’t let your left hamstring rise off the mat. By pressing through your left hamstring, you might not be able to get your right leg as close to your chest as before – that’s ok! Draw your shoulder blades back and down until they are resting on the floor rather than hunching forward. Soften your hands, relax and lengthen the back of your neck, let your backside muscles release into the floor.
Athlete or not, I hope this information encourages you to add yoga or additional stretching into your training plan.