Yoga, traditionally an Eastern discipline of strengthening, stretching and breathing exercises and poses, has been on the rise in the West for some time now. Every city across America has a yoga studio, some with many studios, and some even offering many different styles and levels of yoga workouts.
As more and more benefits are found, the more popular yoga has become. Yoga has commonly been stereotyped as a room full of women sitting cris-cross apple sauce, eyes closed, palms to the sky, while omitting strange sounds like “ohm” for hours. In reality, it is a very valuable form of exercise that can do wonders for the mind and body.
As yoga’s popularity has increased among the general population, it has also experienced an upward trend as a training technique for many athletes, from the everyday athletes to the weekend warriors to elite and professional athletes.
A significant physical benefit of yoga for athletes is improved flexibility, especially legs, hips, joints, and hamstrings, all problem areas generating severe inflexibility and tightness for many athletes.
Within professional sports, many teams have begun to implement yoga as part of their required training. A few NFL teams have brought in full-time yoga coaches and all of England's National Rugby team is required to attend at least two yoga training sessions per week.
In our beloved sport, footballers such as former Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, and David Bellion all utilized yoga during their training routines. Giggs, who is now retired and is managing the Welsh national team, endorses training through yoga and has released a DVD, a comprehensive “how-to” guide to gain strength and fitness through yoga.
Giggs experienced a variation of serious injuries early in his career and began struggling during training sessions and games. He turned to yoga to help loosen his chronically tight muscles in his legs and back, and credits training with yoga for his long career.
He has referred to yoga as his “fountain of youth” and the reason he was able to play into his 40s. He has extensively recommended yoga to fellow players and friends using his personal experience to convince them of its benefits. If you are a soccer player or an athlete of any type, yoga is something you should consider as part of your training. Below are the five best yoga poses for soccer players.
1) Downward Facing Dog: stretches the hamstrings and calves along with calming the nervous system
2) Warrior I: opens and stretches the groin and stomach while strengthening the legs
3) Half-Front Splits Pose: opens the hamstrings while easing the tightness that can be caused by running on a soccer field
4) Pigeon Pose: deep hip opening pose that stretches the hip rotators as well as the quadriceps and hip flexors
5) Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend: creates space in the groins and legs while strengthening the spine