Whether you play football, surf, enjoy going for a run or love to play tennis it’s likely that you’ve picked up some injuries along the way.
Yoga can go a long way to keeping your body pain-free and regular sessions will keep you lean, strong and flexible – making injuries less prevalent.
When you hold a pose for more than a minute – you are restoring and rebuilding the connective tissue in your body and this in turn makes your body less likely to get hurt whilst doing physical activities.
Here, I choose the one yoga pose for all athletes – no matter what your chosen sport is.
Exercise – Running
Injury – runner’s knee
Why – One of the most common causes of knee pain in runners is the irritation of the iliotibial band (IT band), a thick band of fascia that runs from the top of the outer hip to just below the outer knee. Stretching alone won’t fix this because the band is simply a fibrous sheet; the surrounding muscles are the cause of the problem. When they are weak the IT band begins to compensate and do their job, something it wasn’t intended for.
By strengthening your gluteus medius, one of the muscles in your buttocks your IT band won’t get overworked and therefore irritated and cause the referred pain in the knee.
The yoga pose – Tree
How to – Stand with your feet straight and hip width apart. Focus on a spot on the floor or wall in front of you. When you feel balanced place your left foot onto your right thigh. Ensure you keep your hips facing forward and that you haven’t shifted your weight onto your right. Breathe. Inhale and lift your arms above your head placing your hands in prayer pose. Hold for three breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Exercise – Cycling
Injury – piriformis syndrome
Why – Piriformis syndrome can cause sciatic nerve pain, weakness and numbness down your leg, as well as lower back pain and sore, tight buttocks. When cycling you use the same muscles over and over again and underuse other muscles causing some of the larger glute muscles to become weak or inactive. When the larger glute muscles are weak, the piriformis muscle compensates. When it becomes overworked it can tighten and get inflamed which causes the pain associated with piriformis syndrome.
The yoga pose – eye of the needle
How to – Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your head should be flat on the floor with your chin tucked towards your chest. If you’re tight in your shoulders or neck this may be uncomfortable, so support your head with a yoga block or folded blanket. Inhale, exhale, place your right ankle bone over your left thigh. Draw your left leg towards you and breathe. You will feel a strong stretch in you left leg. Hold for at least three breaths, before exhaling and swapping sides.
Exercise – Swimming
Injury – rotator cuff inflammation or Tear (pain in the shoulder)
Why – The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that stabilises the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket and allows the shoulder to rotate. The tendons of these muscles often become irritated when they are over used. Generally, pain is felt over the top of the shoulder, but it can extend to almost anywhere around the shoulder joint itself, including the shoulder blade or the armpit.
By strengthening and stretching the muscles around the shoulder joint you restore your range of motion to the rotator cuff which makes injury less likely.
The Yoga Pose – shoulder stretch
How to – Sit comfortably; reach your left arm straight out to the left, parallel to the floor. Rotate your arm inwardly; the thumb will turn first toward the floor, then point toward the wall behind you, with the palm facing the ceiling. This movement will roll your left shoulder slightly up and forward, and will round your upper back. With a full exhalation, sweep the arm behind your torso and tuck the forearm in the hollow of your lower back, parallel to your waist, with the left elbow against the left side of your torso. Roll the shoulder back and down; then work the forearm up your back until it feels parallel to your spine. The back of your hand will be between your shoulder blades.
Inhale and stretch your right arm straight forward, parallel to the floor. Turn the palm up, inhale, and stretch your arm straight up toward the ceiling, palm turned back. Bend your elbow and reach down for the left hand. If you can, clasp your hands. If you can’t reach, start over with a towel or strap in your overhead hand. Hold for one minute, and then repeat on the other side.
Exercise – Tennis
The Injury: plantar fasciitis
Why – A common injury for anyone who plays sports that involve quick bursts of running and stopping such as tennis, squash and volleyball is plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes and runs along the sole of the foot. Stress from repetitive foot strikes as well as tightness in the Achilles tendon, ankle, and calf muscles can create too much tension in the plantar fascia, resulting in microtears and inflammation. Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can cause bone spurs in the heel and contribute to knee, hip, and back pain.
The Yoga pose – heel stretch
How to – You need to stretch the tissues on the back of the leg and the sole of the foot to reduce tension in the plantar fascia. Do these poses daily or every other day if you are recovering or are on the verge of an injury, and once a week or more for prevention.
Exercise – Football
Injury – knee pain
The knee joint takes a lot of strain when playing competitive games such as football. The running – then stopping abruptly, twisting, turning and jarring movements – and any knocks you might take can lead to knee pain, either through injury or by overuse. In order to take the pressure of the patella, the best thing to do is build up the muscles around the knees which will protect them and mean the knee isn’t so vulnerable.
The Pose – bridge
How to – Lie on your back with your arms by your side, palms flat. Bend your knees so that your feet are as close to your bottom as possible (if you feel any pulling in the knees, move the feet a bit further away). Inhale, exhale lift your bottom and hips as high as you can. Once your hips are in position, bring your arms in under your body and clasp the hands. Hold and breathe, release as you exhale.
Exercise – Rugby
Injury – broken collar bone
Why – Collar bone breaks are common due to the over use of the body in tackling, catching and throwing the ball. Preventative measures can be taken by improving flexibility in the upper body which will give a greater range of motion at the joints. You can improve bone density by regular stretching and strengthening exercises meaning your bones are less likely to break.
Yoga pose – Standing forward bend with hands in prayer pose
How to – From standing, reach your right arm to your side so the hand is parallel to the floor, rotate it to the ceiling and hold then take it behind your back with your palm facing left. Reach your left arm to your side so the hand is parallel to the floor, rotate it to the ceiling and hold then take it behind your back with your palm facing right. Touch the palms together making a prayer position with your hands. Inhale, and as you exhale lean forward. If you can’t touch the hands together then cross your arms behind your back instead.