Yoga has become a very popular form of exercise. Many athletes are beginning to use it as a supplemental form of training. You may think it seems too slow pace, but so many have tried it and become intrigued by its challenge.
Research shows yoga can enhance athletic performance and recovery. Teen athletes may not have time for yoga, but new findings may encourage you to make time. Professional athletes who practice yoga regularly include Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, LeBron James, Kerry Walsh, Hope Solo and many more. Here are the top five reasons why teen athletes should do more yoga.
- Improves Flexibility and Prevents Injury. Yoga postures lengthen major muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, pectorals etc.) while strengthening small, stabilizing muscles. Yoga can be used as an off season supplemental training tool to help growing teens develop body awareness and control, preventing injury.
- Decreases Soreness & Recovery Time.1 Yoga is also a great post game recovery routine to get you ready for your next competition.
- Lowers Anxiety, Depression and Stress.2 Yoga classes offer a welcoming environment for teens to relax, breathe and tune in to how their body is feeling. Yoga can provide teen athletes with the ability to recognize and lower pregame anxiety.
- Improves Focus and Academic Performance.3,4 Yoga postures paired with breathing increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain to improve mental functioning. Try yoga to sharpen focus and speed up reaction time in your game.
- Low Risk. Yoga involves body weight movement within warm environment to heat muscles and improve blood circulation for optimal performance. Yoga is a great way to supplement your training regimen with safe, strengthening, restoring stretches, during season and off-season.
How Often Should Teens Do Yoga?
Yoga interventions show, to maximum benefits take yoga 2-3 times per week.4 However, if that’s not possible don’t be discouraged. Through personal experience and instructing other athletes, I have found that 10 minutes of yoga poses a day or 1 class of yoga a week can improve your game. Express classes are usually offered at gyms or yoga studios that last 20-30 minutes. You can practice your Sun Salutations at home or follow an online series to get your weekly dose of yoga! Bottom line is, any amount of yoga is good for the body.
What Type of Yoga?
There are many forms of yoga, so let’s talk about which class you should take. In every class, you can expect to stretch your muscles, build strength and practice balance.
Below are descriptions of the most common classes you will see at your local gym or yoga studio:
Vinyasa Flow: Ranges from moderate to intense series of postures. Sun salutations A and B are a common warm up series, matching breath with movement. The main goal of vinyasa is to bring heat to the body. (If you are unfamiliar with sun salutations, google it and practice at home to become familiar with these common poses).
Power Yoga: Usually an intense vinyasa flow, with greater focus on strength-building postures, including core.
Hot Yoga: Most likely a strong vinyasa flow or power class. The room is heated, usually within the 90s. Prepare to sweat and feel rejuvenated post class.
Restorative/Gentile/Yin Yoga: May start with a low intensity standing series, but most postures are seated and often use props for comfort. Postures are held for a longer period to reach deep muscle tissue. This is a wonderful class if you are sore from exercise or want to increase flexibility.
Hatha: Focuses on balancing the left and right sides of the body and breath work. Hatha intensity lies between a vinaysa flow class and a restorative class.
Asthanga: This is a traditional yoga practice which was designed to strengthen, stretch and balance the body in a moving meditation. It provides you with the fundamentals to heal and align your body.
Bikram: All classes heated between 95-108F and are 90 minutes consisting of the same 26 yoga posture series. This type of yoga is very beneficial, but very mentally and physically challenging. I don’t recommend this class for teens unless they have already experienced many other yoga forms.
Remember that there are always pose modifications given by the instructor and props provided to help everyone get the most out of each yoga posture. Do not be intimidated by the names of the postures or by anyone practicing around you. They have probably been practicing for several years and were once in your very position. Be present in your own practice on your mat, listening to what your body needs. Don’t be afraid try new things—
My favorite quote by Fred Devito, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
Check out your local gym and yoga studios for yoga classes and times. You can pick up a yoga mat from just about anywhere these days. When purchasing your mat, the thicker and denser the better and check the texture for grip. Now, enjoy the journey to becoming the best athlete you can possibly be!
Madison Tormey has a Bachelor’s Degree in Integrative Health Sciences from Stetson University and is pursuing a second degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from University of North Florida. She played 4 years of Division I Beach Volleyball for the Stetson Hatters. She has her 200 hour Yoga Teachers Certification and is a CrossFit Level I Certified Coach. She trains adult and teen athletes in Sport Specific Movement and Conditioning at the Albany Bahamas Fitness Center in Nassau, Bahama and Jacksonville, Beach. Contact Madison for questions or scheduling a session at Madisontormey@gmail.com
Boyle C, Sayers S, Jensen B, Headley S, Manos T. The effects of yoga training and a single bout of yoga on delayed onset muscle soreness in the lower extremity. Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research [serial online]. November 2004;18(4):723-729. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 21, 2018. http://resolver.ebscohost.com.dax.lib.unf.edu/openurl?sid=EBSCO%3arzh&genre=article&issn=10648011&ISBN=&volume=18&issue=4&date=20041101&spage=723&pages=723-729&title=Journal+of+Strength+&atitle=The+effects+of+yoga+training+and+a+single+bout+of+yoga+on+delayed+onset+muscle+soreness+in+the+lower+extremity.&aulast=Boyle+CA&id=DOI%3a&site=ftf-live
Frank, Bose & Schrobenhauser-Clonan
Kauts & Sharma
Subbalakshmi et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3221193/