5 Yoga poses for athletes to incorporate into their daily routine

Sports and athletics are as much about physical fitness as it is about mental fitness, however, the latter is often ignored or not given the importance it deserves. But the likes of Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka have created tremendous awareness around the need for athletes to make time for both physical and mental health. That’s why Yoga is a perfect addition to an athlete’s routine.

Yoga is an excellent way for athletes to balance their training routines. However, this does not mean that yoga for athletes should be a highly charged up or aggressive routine with formidable postures. Athletes already go through rigorous training and the best way for them to incorporate Yoga in their life is to fill the gaps, such as in recovery, flexibility, and stress management. In this way, yoga can be customized to each athlete’s individual needs. 

In a general sense, a yoga routine that would work well for most athletes would be Vata balancing. In Ayurveda, Vata refers to the air and space elements. Vata is light, mobile, fast, and changeable, something that will often be seen in vigorous training routines. Here are a few ways suggested by Namita Piparaiya, Yoga and Ayurveda Lifestyle Specialist, to influence vata into your daily routine:

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1. Slow and controlled movements 

Since Vata is fast and mobile, including movements that are slow and controlled would help counterbalance it. Postures like Cat-Cow are a great place to start as they also mobilize the spine. Sun Salutations when done at a moderate pace with breath awareness would be great for Vata.

2. Balance

One of the best ways to influence Vata is through single-leg balancing postures. In the beginning, one can start with Tree Pose, and eventually add postures like Half-Moon, Warrior III, etc. They require mental focus, resilience, and balance training is excellent for improving performance in sports and athletics. 

3. Full body awareness

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Yoga postures integrate the whole body and it is important to maintain that intention throughout the practice. If you are doing a pose on the right side, it does not mean you forget about the left, the teacher will often instruct you to press the back foot down, and so on. Additionally, there are a lot of contralateral postures in yoga where you make contact between the right and left sides of the body, such as when you twist or do binds. These are great for improving movement efficiency.

4. Grounding

This simply means having a strong base. It is enhanced by practising barefoot, by starting your practice with postures like Tadasana, and by slowing down the practice to observe yourself in the present moment. This is where Yoga differs widely from any other form of exercise, and this is also what makes Yoga, truly a mindfulness practice.

5. Breath

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The most powerful tool in yoga is the breath. It’s the bridge between the body and the mind, and an asset for any athlete because it can help with endurance, as well as with stress management. By learning to recruit the breath wisely the athlete can make it work for them as per their needs. There’s a breathing technique for you whether you need to recover, energize, go to sleep or meditate. Some breathing techniques that most people can do are Equal Breathing, Double Breathing, Alternate Nostril Breathing, and Kapalabhati.

About the author: Namita Piparaiya, Yoga and Ayurveda Lifestyle Specialist and Founder – Yoganama

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