Tuning into the Australian Open, I was not surprised to hear commentators already discussing which players were entering the 2016 season with injuries and ailments and which ones were healthy. With the high demands of a season that seems to never have an off-season, how does an athlete maintain good health while still training hard and competing at a high level?
Yoga has received a lot of attention in recent years and we now see many elite athletes who now include it in their training program.
How does yoga help tennis players physically and mentally?
3 ways yoga helps us physically
Some of the most common injuries incurred from playing tennis include but are not limited to lower leg injuries (calf strains, ankle sprains and hamstring pulls), shoulder pain, rotator cuff injuries, lower back pain and tennis elbow. Tennis is a sport that dominates the use of one side of our body so it is important to engage in movements that strengthen your non-dominate side. Poses such as tree, warrior, side angle and pigeon all assist the body in balancing
Awareness of self is so important for an athlete and the mindfulness trading that yoga provides enhances an athlete’s proprioception on court.
Yoga teaches us to connect our minds with our bodies. Through refinement we can have the ability to relax our body through our mind so that movement on the court becomes effortless.
How quickly we recover between matches and practices is important in our overall state of health. Yoga aids in this recovery by relaxing and rejuvenating the body on deeper connective tissue level which also is important in protecting us against injuries.
3 ways yoga helps us mentally
Though you might have never thought that you needed to learn how to breathe, many of us do not utilize our lung capacity to near its capability and only through learning how to use the lower lobes of the lung can we have a more efficient running body because we are placing less strain on the parasympathetic nervous system.
Being present can provide a great challenge. Have you been up 40-0 in a game and lost the game because you thought it was over? Yoga teaches us to live in the present moment, focusing on being here ‘right now’. We use the audible sound of our breath to tune our mind inward, focal points in postures to let go off the long list of things we need to do when we get off our mat.
Through refinement of breath and focus, we learn how to manage the challenges we face on the court with positive thoughts and calming breathes - we learn to find the ease in the effort which results in less energy expended through emotional outbursts on the court!
The greatest challenges we face at the moment is finding the time to incorporate a yoga program into our routine and getting over our negative thoughts that we are not good enough or flexible enough to do yoga. Yoga is for everyone - it is learning about ourselves as individuals and how we can improve our performance on the court!