Yoga for sportspeople – general introduction

Why, as a sportsperson, and presumably already reasonably healthy and fit, would you want to include yoga in your programme?  Here are some reasons:


Effective injury prevention.  Comprehensive stretching and warming up prepares the body for more rigorous training, and ensures a good supply of blood to the muscles. Paying attention through breath awareness decreases the likelihood of sudden movements, which can lead to muscle contraction and/or overloading joints.


Developing increased mindfulness during practise, rehearsal and play brings significant improvements. It is well-documented that visualisation and focus on the moment to moment activity increases the ability of the body and mind to respond to and benefit from the practise. (It has proved to be hugely more effective than, for example, watching tv while mindlessly working on the treadmill).


Focus on stretching, particularly passive and isometric stretches, allows more time and mental space for the body to lengthen – many sportspeople focus so much on pushing that they will limit the muscular reach more than if they learn to relax into stretches.


Working movement with the breath will open up a whole, new range of possibilities where it is not usually connected. Working specific positions on the inhalation and exhalation will deepen the body’s response.


Introducing the bandhas will help with focusing the bodies’ energy, increase lift in the body and maintain internal support to assist external movement.


Understanding that overdoing training can be a waste of energy, create unnecessary pressure on the joints and create long term problems. 

Yoga can encourage a complementary approach to those with a competitive drive, helping people to work with their bodies and listen to them.  This increased feedback will allow better communication, so there is increased ‘early warning’ of injury or ill health. It will also encourage a more compassionate attitude to the body which will reap dividends, rather than treating the body like an old work horse with all the attendant dangers of exhaustion and burn out.



In general, a class will incorporate a mixture of the following: breath work, warm ups for muscles, and exploring their range of movement, dynamic, isometric and passive stretches, core strength, aerobic work, balance, concentration and visualisation, and relaxation – ‘letting go.’




The benefits:

·        Develop and maintain a flexible spine – improve the reach and power of your swing

·        Increase core strength – improve the efficiency of your drive

·        Keep shoulders and arms relaxed and open – ensure no tightening up and keep your movements fluid

·        Release and de-stress hands and wrists – avoid soreness and pain in the hands, help prevent damage to tendons and ligaments

·        improve overall balance – find your perfect poise from which to hit your drive or sink the winning put!



A typical Yogalways yoga for golfers class might look like this:


Savasana to relax the body, isolate any problem areas, slow the mind to pay attention to the body, increase body and breath awareness.

A seated posture such as easy (cross legged) pose, is used to work with elongating the spine and seated twists. Focus on neck and shoulders to ascertain range of movement, and work to soften stiff or tight areas.  Focus on arms, hands and fingers with dynamic stretches and wrist rolls.

Moving into… cat – a basic and brilliant asana for moving the spine safely, working to create space between vertebrae and increase movement along the course of the whole spine.  Attention also to the stretch at the wrists, which can be modified if weak or stiff, also individually lifting fingers.

Cat twist to open shoulders and extend spinal twist.

Push up to down dog, maintaining integrity of shoulders (back and down the back, keeping space between shoulders and ears), and working hamstrings, with for example flexing and stretching each leg individually, working from down dog into plank to strengthen core.  Do as a dynamic sequence with the breath – inhaling into plank, exhaling into down dog.

Lower to floor and work with backbends such as cobra and locust, strengthening the abdominals and spine (NB tendency to lift up with hands with danger of crashing lower lumbar region is to be avoided!).

From down dog stepping to standing, through uttanasana – a standing forward fold, ensuring bent knees to avoid overstretching lower back.  Working on tadasana, mountain pose, the foundation of all standing poses, ensuring the arches of the feet are active, engagement of abdominals, the finding of ideal position of pelvis for stability and ease.  Work with poses such as swaying palm and tree and heron pose to develop side muscles of back and balance.

A final sun salutation sequence may be adapted to include asanas such as trikonasana, warrior poses, lunges and further backbands.

Deeper forward bending stretches such as janu sirsasana and paschimottanasana will focus predominantly on the lower back and work to encourage a ‘scissors like’ shape and prevent rounding the spine, which can cause problems.

Additional poses, varying week by week: e.g. navasana – boat pose for core strength, plough and half shoulderstand and neutralising postures.

Pranayama – regulation of the breath: breath work such as nadi sodana – breathing alternately through right and left nostril, whilst gently blocking other.

Brief seated meditation or return to savasana.


Focus on the mind: working with the mind’s ability to visualise  - e.g. the position of a hole on the green – and concentrate the aim – so the entire consciousness is focused at aiming and continuing through the movement towards the destination.

Working with the instinctive sense of a good shot: how does it feel when you’ve made a good strike? Do you know as soon as you’ve hit it that the ball is good?