Perhaps you’ve already taken a moment to read the first post on USAFootball.com about how the practice of yoga can improve a baller's game. (If you haven't, you can find it here.)
So if you’re ready to step foot on a yoga mat, these four poses are a fantastic place to start for two reasons.
First, consider yoga a safeguard of sorts against potential injury. Because, as former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Dominic Raiola told CBS Sports regarding yoga, “Some ways your body bends on the field, you’re not supposed to bend, [so] if you’re flexible and you can move, that’s going to help.”
And secondly, developing maximum core strength in football – and in life, really – is an integral part of staying healthy.
Here are four yoga postures to consider:
1) Opposite Arm Opposite Leg
This movement is excellent for warming up the hip socket, shoulder socket, and abs, as well as syncing the breath with the movement, which can be critical for the quick elusive moves you need on the field. Begin on your hands and knees and extend your right arm forward and left leg back on an inhale. Don’t hold your breath; breathe deeply. Try holding the pose for 30 seconds, one minute, and then two. Release the pose on an exhale. Switch sides and repeat.
2) Crescent Twist
There’s a lot happening in this pose: It strengthens the legs, stretching the quadriceps, and gives your back a fantastic stretch. The latter will tremendously help a receiver’s need to twist and torque in order to catch a less than perfect pass. This posture also works wonders for developing balance. Here’s how to move into the pose: Inhale, stand tall, roll your shoulders back, and bring your hands together at the center of your chest. On an exhale, step your right foot back, straighten your right leg, and keep the ball of your right foot firmly on the ground. Square your hips so they are parallel to the top edge of your mat. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees, aligning your knee directly over the heel of your front foot. Your front shin should be perpendicular to the floor. (If it’s too difficult to keep the ball of your right foot on your mat, lower your right knee to the floor, slide your leg back a few inches, un-tuck your back toes, and rest the top of your back foot on the floor.) Inhale as you raise your torso to an upright position, keeping your hands together at the center of your chest. On an exhale, twist your torso to the left and draw your left shoulder blade into your back. Your gaze should remain upward, above your shoulder.
This pose looks relatively simple, but it requires a full-body effort, particularly from your core. Practicing plank increases your abdominal and hip flexor strength like few other activities will. And strong abdominal muscles will support your back in all compromising positions on the field. Resist the urge to hold your breath in this pose as well, and breathe deeply.
4) Garland (also known as Squat or Frog pose)
When it comes to developing flexibility in your knees and pelvic region, this pose is the Holy Grail. But don’t be intimidated by this pose – and don’t worry if you are not able to squat very low initially. Regardless of your depth, you will begin reaping the benefits of this pose immediately. Here’s how to approach it: On an exhale, squat with your feet about hip’s distance apart – perhaps a tad wider if your hips are especially tight. Toes should turn out slightly. (Keep your heels on the floor if you can; otherwise, support them on a folded mat or towel.) Separate your thighs slightly wider than your torso. On an exhale, lean your torso forward, fit it snuggly between your thighs, and press your elbows against your inner knees. Bring your palms to together.
You will benefit from this.
Prepare to transform your body.