Five yoga asanas to improve your athletic performance
Yoga has many benefits — from mental to physical and even physiological. Turns out, it can also prove to be immensely beneficial if you are looking to enhance your athletic performance, too. So, if you are a sportsperson (or aspiring to be one), you are at the right place!
“Yoga contributes to the health and vitality of the body, strengthens internal organs such as the heart, lungs, and liver, and helps to maintain fitness and agility. It also helps to reduce stress and anxiety, cultivate self-confidence and self-belief. All of these elements are pivotal to sporting excellence and peak performance,” said Jiggyasa Gupta, nutrition and fitness coach.
Echoing the same, Sarvesh Shashi, founder of Sarva Yoga Studios wrote on Instagram, “Many people may not know this, but yoga can help in sports. Top athletes across the world turn to yoga to build their strength, endurance, and mental toughness.”
Here are five yoga asanas you can practice as a sportsperson:
Downward facing dog pose
Also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, this pose delivers a full body stretch while also lengthening and strengthening your bones and muscles. It is also beneficial for digestion, removes fatigue, calms the mind, and improves blood circulation.
* Begin in the tabletop pose on all fours.
* Place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Look at your knees; you shouldn’t be able to see your feet as they should be directly behind your knees.
* Spread your palms through their outer edges and the fingertips. Keep your upper arms and shoulders rotated outwards while your forearms rotated inward to protect over flexing of the elbows.
* On exhalation, lift your knees away from the floor.
* Beginners can keep the knees slightly bent to lengthen the spine, and the heels lifted away from the floor.
* Push your hamstrings and place your heels down toward the floor. If possible, straighten the legs, while maintaining the length in the spine.
* Keep lengthening your spine and shoulder blades keeping space across the tops of the shoulders
* Inhale and exhale in this pose for about 5-10 breathes and slowly keep your knees down to sit back in Child pose.
“However, people with high blood pressure, those with Carpel tunnel syndrome, detached eye retina, weak eye capillaries, dislocated shoulder, shoulder injury or diarrhoea must perform with proper guidance only,” Gupta told indianexpress.com.
Ustrasana or Camel pose stretches the front of the body including the chest, abdomen and quadriceps, thereby improving spinal mobility. It is also said to open the heart chakra, which is the energy center for love and compassion.
* Begin by standing on the knees on the mat. Ensure your knees are hip width apart in a kneeling position with the tops of your feet on the mat. Sit up tall in the spine, tucking your tailbone slightly under you, towards the ground.
* Place your palm at the spine’s base covering the sacrum base, supporting your lower back with your hands.
* Inhale, lift your gaze, and begin to bend backward, expanding up and opening through the sternum, looking as high as is comfortable for your neck.
* Exhale and push your glutes forward. Engage the front of your thighs as you begin to reach for one heel and then the other. Keep looking up and back.
* Pull up onto your heels, continue shifting your weight forward, engage your quadriceps, and bend your back.
* Continue to breathe normal in this pose.
* To exit, bring your hands back to your sacrum to support the lower back as you slowly and gently rise from your backbend. To counteract this deep stretch, rest and sit back in child’s pose for a few breaths.
Gupta recommended people with high blood pressure to avoid this asana. “Anyone with knee, neck, spine, ankle and wrist injury can perform, but with proper guidance only,” he stressed.
The Sanskrit translation of boat pose is Navasana. It is an excellent core strengthening posture, which tones the muscles of the abdomen and back. It also puts the muscles of the core, hips, thighs and back into work, making them more flexible and robust.
* Begin by lying down flat on the yoga mat with your feet together and arms on the sides.
*Inhale and lift the chest and feet off the mat. As you exhale, stretch your arms towards your feet.
* Feel the tension as the abdominal muscles in your stomach contract.
* The weight of the body will be on the buttocks.
* Remain in the pose for about 10-30 seconds or more while you’re holding your breath.
* Slowly exhale to bring the body back to its starting position and relax.
“People with low blood pressure, migraine, headaches or spinal disorder should avoid this pose,” said Gupta.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or Pigeon pose helps open your hips and eases lower back pain. It also supports mobility and flexibility in the joints.
* Begin in the Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Start on all fours and place your hands in front of you on the mat (palms down). Press into your hands and feet, straighten your legs, and raise your hips up towards the ceiling.
* Raise the right leg off the ground and bring the right knee to the back of the right wrist. Then, rotate the right shin so that it’s parallel with the front of the mat
* Keep your left leg straight as it reaches the ground.
* Keep the right knee outward so it’s farther to the right than the hips, ensuring the right foot is dorsiflexed.
* Gently lower the right buttocks towards the ground and ensure equal weight distribution between both hips.
* Place both hands under the shoulders and gently press into the palms of the hands to straighten and elongate the spine.
* Lower the torso over your right leg, and stretch the arms straight in front keeping the elbows slightly bent.
* Gently hold on this position for 5-10 breaths.
* Repeat on the other side.
Gupta noted that people with low blood pressure, migraine, headaches or spinal disorder should skip performing this asana.
Warrior pose, known as Vīrabhadrasana in Sanskrit, embodies the mythic warrior Vīrabhadra, according to the Vedic teachings. It targets your shoulders, arms, back and legs.
* Begin by standing on the mat and split the legs at a distance of 3-4 feet.
* Turn the right foot out at 90 degrees and left foot in at 45 or 60 degrees.
* Gently lift both arms sideways to shoulder height with palms facing upward.
* Bend the right knee over the big toe.
* Slowly look to your right and stretch the arms.
* Keep breathing and make an effort to push the pelvis down. Hold the asana for a few seconds or counts.
* Inhale and exhale as you go down further.
* Breath out, bring the hands down from the sides.
* Return back to the base position.
* Repeat the same from the left side
“People with high blood pressure, heart disease and history of stroke should avoid this pose,” said Gupta, adding that anyone with pain in knee, hip, shoulder or lower back can perform with proper guidance.
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