Week 7: Yoga for Speed & Agility in Tennis
Yoga for speed sounds like an oxymoron since yoga is often about slowing your body down. It may be a little easier to understand how yoga might make you more agile on the court but how can it make you faster? We are now beginning to build upon the foundational layers created in the previous blogs and everything starts to come together as a whole unit.
Speed is defined as ‘the rate at which someone or something is able to move or operate’ (Google Dictionary) and agility ‘by the ability to explosively start, decelerate, change direction, and accelerate again quickly while maintaining body control and minimizing a reduction in speed’ (Google Dictionary).
Posture and Good Mechanics - I cannot over stress the importance of posture. Without maintaining a posture that is ideal for your body, a breakdown will begin to occur and movements will become impaired and injuries may surface. (Refer back to week 3 for techniques on finding your neutral posture)
Yoga gives us the opportunity to explore and discover the balance between effort and ease when we are standing, sitting or lying. Yoga techniques create a neuromuscular adaptation giving the body a new perspective on movement. It provides the knowledge to release areas of tension in our body through a variety of techniques that are blocking our ability to be free within our own physical and emotional being.
The technique of your physical movement is as important as the technique of your tennis strokes. So, now you may be thinking you not only have to think about how you are striking the ball but what your feet do at the same time. Not at all! Practice mindfulness off court whenever possible throughout your day and you will begin to notice a shift of your perspective and attitude on the tennis court.
Speed & Agility Techniques - Just as you would work with a tennis pro to improve your racquet techniques, you will want to spend time practicing off court speed and agility drills with a trainer who is knowledgeable in this area. This will help develop your muscle memory improve your court movements. The better mechanics you have with movement, the more efficiently the body will move. Weakness and tension in areas of your body such as feet, hips and shoulders will restrict the patterns of movement necessary to execute the transference of energy through the muscles of the body and have the potential to cause injury.
Yoga teaches us body awareness which enhances our proprioception (see week 6 blog). It helps to create mobility and stability in our joints and reduces the tension in our muscles which makes the body more reactive to changes in movement.
Breath - The integration of breath is key in movement allowing you to move more easily around the court and be faster (see week 5 blog) . Try to be aware if you are holding your breath when you play. Are you clenching your teeth as you strike the ball? If you do this when you strike a ball, it is more than likely that you hold your breath at other times on the court as well. Slow down in practice and notice what it feels like to exhale as you strike the ball. Bring awareness to how your body feels as you do this. Like anything new, it may feel awkward at first and if you have been holding your breath since you started playing, it may take some time to create a new habit.
Tennis and yoga are quite similar in how many of your senses you use to practice. See if you can discover the similarities.