Whether to increase flexibility, stability, strength, endurance, concentration or a whole host of other beneficial elements to one's game, athletes of all kinds are very much jumping on the yoga bandwagon. But what's important to remember-especially when utilizing yoga as a complement to another sport-is that your teacher can make all the difference in the outcome of your practice.
As Zeel's resident yogis Melissa Gutierrez and Kim-Lien Kendall, co-founders of SMARTER Bodies™, remind us in this insightful write-up, "There are a million different ways to teach an asana practice, and it should be tailored to the individual's needs. If you are playing a sport and are looking for a yoga teacher, then talk to a few until you get answers that resonate with your body's needs."
"Please note," they add, "any asana in the right hands can also be an opportunity to rehab, but if a teacher thinks the poses themselves are the "prescriptions" for any problem, then we suggest moving on to another."
When poking around for the right yoga instructor for you, here's what you might consider.
- Don't settle for standard. While popular, styles like Ashtanga may not offer the kind of variation in sequencing that can be required by many athletes. Keep an eye out for sticking to one pattern; switch it up! By assorting the movements and positions, yoga can help to address a ton of concerns, like the need for strong glutes, a connection to your core, focusing your eyes and more.
- Bringing balance to the body. Whether skating on ice or shifting your weight constantly during a sport like tennis, balance plays a key role in many an athletic activity. "So whatever you do in yoga, concentrate on weight shifting and take your time in transitions," they say. "Pay attention to your breath while you move from one pose to another. How steady does it stay? Don't rush through poses and don't use pure momentum to settle into the next one. Exploring the "spaces in between" is great for improving balance."
- Let's get specific! Here's where having a personal yoga instructor who knows your body and your needs comes into play. When working with a private practitioner, be sure to communicate what you need to accomplish in order to perform your best. Using that information, a personalized practice can be designed. (Other factors taken into consideration are the pupil's familiarity with yoga, past injuries, etc.)
Both Kim and Melissa have worked with many athletes with a variety of athletic backgrounds. It's extremely important to know when and what kind of yoga practice is and, more importantly, is not appropriate. For example, when working with a boxer who hasn't tried yoga before, it's not probably not the best idea to push for flexibility two weeks before a fight. Changing an athlete's range of motion in an unfamiliar way so close to an event can throw off their performance.
If you are looking to increase athletic performance through yoga, be sure to work with a seasoned practitioner. And if you can't do that, you can always check out Kim and Melissa's Facebook page and drop them a note. Play well!
You can read Melissa and Kim's full article on yoga for athletes here.