Yoga for Athletes

Dear Diane, I'm an athlete and go to the gym weekly. Some of my sports buddies say yoga helps them with flexibility and focus. Can you tell me some things to do for that? -- Baseball Bob Dear B

Dear Diane,

I'm an athlete and go to the gym weekly. Some of my sports buddies say yoga helps them with flexibility and focus. Can you tell me some things to do for that?

— Baseball Bob

Dear Bob,

I often meet athletes who are very strong but can't touch their toes. From working out, their muscles are constantly contracting and never take time to relax and stretch. Short contracted muscle pulls on joints, creating less range of movement and flexibility. Or others I meet practice a sport daily and then can't focus on game day. When they work out, they're watching TV and not their breath and body. Yoga is a perfect solution for both.

Although every sport uses different key muscles, the universal areas for all athletes to work on are the spine, hips and shoulders.

A good regular yoga class will hit all these, but here's one posture flow you can do in 10 minutes.

Try this: Kneel on the floor on all fours (table pose). On an exhale, drop your tailbone down, then round your back like a Halloween cat and drop your head to look toward your knees. Pause here and breathe (focus). Then on an inhale, lift your tailbone, lower your spine and lift your head to look at the horizon. Pause here and breathe (focus). Now go back and forth 10 times, feeling each vertebra as you move slowly and breathe.

Come back to a neutral spine and move your hips to the right and your shoulder to the right and look right at your hip. Pause here and breathe (focus). Repeat on the other side. Go back and forth 10 times.

Come back to neutral spine and put your right hand on the floor directly under your throat and lift the left arm into the air as high as you can. Make circles from the shoulder, then the elbow, then the wrist. Look up and follow your hand with your eyes as you continue to breathe (focus). Lower your arm slowly on an exhale. Repeat on other side. Go back and forth 10 times.

Practice this table series to get the mechanics down and start to loosen up to help with your flexibility. By paying attention to breathing as suggested, the focus comes into play. Then eventually coordinating the movement and the breath together, you're in the zone!



DIANE UTASKI ANSWERS YOGA QUESTIONS in her columns; send questions to [email protected]. Find more info at www.cincyoga.com.

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