The Mindful Athlete

One of the many incredible things about Yoga is that the practice is so versatile. You can adapt the way that you flow through the asanas to suit your specific needs on each changing day. Yoga can be slow, restorative and therapeutic or it can be a powerful strength building practice complimenting your sport-based activities.

 

Yoga can be especially beneficial alongside working out or sport because it helps to build strength, flexibility, balance and an awareness of good posture and use of the core. This all helps to prevent injury and to cultivate connection with the body which is essential for overall wellbeing. The alignment needed for correct posture in Yoga is like a sacred geometry that can be taken into various sport activities for good performance.

 

The skills that can be developed on the Yoga mat move far beyond that of developing physical strength. Breath focus unites the mind and body, helping you to concentrate on the present moment which can be a welcome bit of respite if you’re prone to overthinking or getting lost in habitual patterns of worrying.

 

When you have to use your determination to hold challenging postures, keeping the breath slow and steady, the nervous system receives an important lesson in resilience training. By keeping the breath calm whilst putting the body under moderate amounts of stress, your whole system learns how to do this in everyday life too at times of stress of emotional difficulty. You can use your asana practice to reprogram how your mind responds to challenging situations.

 

The unique way that Yoga helps to train the mind and body as well as affect positive change in the nervous system itself, can be beneficial to everyone. It can be a real game changer for athletes and those into sports with many finding Yoga to be an essential part of their training regime.

Asana (Posture) Descriptions

Here are some asanas to help you explore how Yoga can complement your other physical activities. They are a set of challenging postures that develop strength, flexibility and endurance:

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

Using a wall or structure for support is a great way to play with going upside down in a handstand. You can come into a down dog to start, with your heels touching the base of the wall then walk your feet up the wall so your hips are above your wrists and start to play with taking one foot off the wall.

This is such a good way to improve balance and upper body strength with the security of having wall support!

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)

 Step your feet apart with your right foot ahead pointing 90°, your left foot behind pointing 45-60°. Have your arms reaching forward parallel to the floor and twist to face the right side so you can place your left hand on the mat inside or outside the right foot (or a block if needed). The right arm raises up to the sky.

This strengthens and stretches the legs whilst improving balance and focus.

Vasisthasana (Side Plank)

From full plank lift your left hand and roll onto the outer edge of your right foot, leaning all your weight onto your right hand, torso facing to the left side. You can also bind around the left big toe with your left hand and raise the leg in the air for an extra challenge.

This is a challenging way to use your determination and strength, it works the core muscles and builds upper body strength.

Elbow to Knee

Lie down on your back and interlace the hands behind the head, bend your knees and lift them above your hips. Inhale, exhale to reach your right elbow up and over towards your left knee as you draw it in towards the body at the same time as lengthening and lowering the right leg. Keep repeating on both sides with slow conscious movements.

This exercise helps to build abdominal strength which is essential for good posture and physical activity.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

 From a table top all 4’s position bring your big toes together and sit your bum back towards your heels, resting your head on the floor and relaxing your arms out ahead.

Child’s pose is the perfect way to end any strength building routine as it allows your body to relax and restore. Let this posture be all about surrender.

Parsvottanasana (Pyramid)

 For this variation, step your right foot forward, and come onto the toes of the left foot pointing forwards. Draw your right hip back and left hip forward. With the spine long take a forward fold and take your fingertips to the floor either side of the body behind you for balance.

This posture helps you to focus on your alignment, developing your balance as well as stretching the backs of the legs.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold)

 Step your feet wide apart, toes slightly pointing in. You can take an optional reverse prayer position and fold forward.

You can see the geometry of this posture which helps to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings, calves, hips and lower back.