Yoga for tennis – a no brainer right! Yeah!
Well I bet most of the tennis players reading this do not practice yoga regularly. I know because I see it first hand every week at the tennis club I where I play and with almost every one I play against. Eventually the conversation with my peers arrives at the topic of getting older, getting injured more often and slowing down but that’s where I interject and tell them it doesn’t have to happen that fast…have they considered practicing yoga to boost their tennis game? Answer: uhh no. Well if you also answered no then read on and get a really good idea of what yoga can do for your game.
About 6 months ago I finally decided to start practicing yoga on a daily basis. Believe me when I tell you that it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made for my body. You see I’ve had my share of injuries throughout the years as I’ve not only played tennis but also practiced soccer and even did numerous triathlons – I’ve suffered through pulled calf muscles, back strain, quad strain, etc – and I’ve been quite upset at myself because I knew these could have been avoided if I had taken stretching and yoga more seriously.
So what prompted me to finally decide to give yoga a serious try?
Well, a couple of years ago I suffered a partial tear in my left meniscus and I needed to have surgery to repair it. The recovery took several months and afterwards I still felt a little pain specially after playing on a hard court. I was aware that yoga had been used by athletes to recover from a knee injury but I never took it seriously. Only after suffering through the pain for several more months did I decide to look at yoga in more detail.
I didn’t have the time to attend a full class in the morning or evening, so I did the next best thing and downloaded an app on my android phone and started practicing yoga on a daily basis. By the way, the apps these days keep on getting better and better! Well, in time I started to see the wonderful benefits that practicing yoga daily can bring. You see, yoga not only helped increase my flexibility but it also assisted in reducing the pain I felt in my knee. As I strengthened the muscles around my knee, the pain gradually diminished. This was my primary goal and I accomplished it.
However I also found other amazing benefits which actually became my favorite part about yoga. The first side benefit received was learning to slow my breathing and to breath deeply. This has helped me recover faster from a high heart rate after playing a long point. Deep slow breathing also improved my mental focus. As I worked on slowing down my breathing between points I was forced to concentrate on the next point and the strategy that I was going to use.
Now that you understand the benefits, what poses should you do? Well, when I decided to look more seriously at yoga, I looked at the best possible poses specifically related to tennis and these are the most recommended poses that I found:
- tree pose – helps strengthen your thighs, calves, ankles and back. It can also increase the flexibility of your hips and groin. Your balance and concentration can also be improved with constant practice.
- triangle pose – this exercise builds up strength in the lower back and upper legs while you remove tension from the lower and upper back, the hips and the hamstrings through both the twist and the stretching. The exercise is good for your sense of coordination and sense of balance.
- warrior II pose – strengthens your legs, back, shoulders, and arms, building stamina. It opens your hips and chest, and improves balance.
- spinal twist – one of the few basic poses that rotates the spine. Most bend the spinal column either backward or forward, but to become truly flexible it must be twisted laterally as well. The movement also tones the spinal nerves and ligaments, and improves digestion.
- chair pose – strengthens the lower back and the legs and by doing so, creates more space in the chest and belly.
Incorporate these poses into your regular fitness program and the most important part, of course, is for you to be consistent. You will be pleasantly surprised at how yoga can help transform your game. Remember that while yoga is improving your flexibility, it is also increasing your strength and balance and even your focus. Practicing yoga will train your brain to relax during a match!
Here’s a quick list of all the positives that yoga practice can bring:
- Increased flexibility
- Improved balance
- Stronger core muscles
- Increased leg strength
- More stamina
- Restored and revitalized energy
- Injury prevention
- Improved full-body coordination
- Symmetry and balance on both sides of the body
- Improved mental focus
It doesn’t matter how old you are. Even if you are in your teens or twenties, getting into the daily routine of practicing yoga will provide great sports and overall health benefits. Follow a routine that you can do every day for at least 15-20 minutes or even develop your own routine. As I mentioned before, with today’s smartphones it is extremely easy to download an app which will lead you through a complete routine.
From experience I believe the best time for running though your routine is early in the morning as it will energize you and get your day started with a great burst of energy. I also recommend that you have a shorter routine that you can follow right before you play your match AND right after you finish your match. This routine can be a short 5-10 minute routine which will warm up and stretch your body before you go into your hitting warm up full speed. The yoga routine after your match will help you cool down the muscles properly and it will assist in improving even more your flexibility.
Enjoy your yoga routine!