Athletes who swing a golf club, baseball bat or tennis racket really twist and turn their bodies. To power through the swing, you need to have loose hips, a flexible spine and strong, open shoulders. To prevent injury, it’s important to keep your body balanced so your dominant side doesn’t overwhelm the other.
Yoga builds shoulder strength and flexibility, keeps your body in alignment, increases spinal movement, opens the hips and loosens the hamstrings. A consistent, longer practice will keep you swinging strong, and this quick post-game yoga session will make your time on the course, court or field stronger, healthier and easier.
STANDING FORWARD FOLD WITH HAND CLASP
This pose stretches your hamstrings and low back, while the hand clasp opens the chest and shoulders. Keep a soft bend in your knees and use a strap or towel to make the pose more accessible.
The move: Stand tall at the top of your mat. As you inhale, sweep your arms overhead. Keep your low belly drawn in to help counteract arching your back. As you exhale, hinge from the hips and swan dive forward with your arms out like wings. If you can, keep your torso long and your knees straight.
After a few breaths in your standing forward fold, bring your arms behind your back, interlace your fingers and let your arms fall over your head. If you can clasp your hands, aim to bring your palms to touch. If you can’t, hold a strap or towel in each hand and gently work your hands closer together. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
COW FACE POSE
This opens the muscles around the shoulder and hip joints. It also loosens tight rotator cuff muscles while strengthening the supporting back muscles, which helps you power through your swing.
The move: Start in a comfortable seated position and cross your right thigh over the left. Slide your feet out in opposite directions, as if you were tying a shoelace so that each foot rests next to the opposite hip. You’re aiming to stack one knee on top of the other, but a space between the two is normal. Try to sit evenly on your bottom.
Inhale and lift your left arm overhead. Bend your elbow and rest your palm on your upper back or shoulder blade, depending on your reach. Use your right hand to gently press your left elbow down. Swing your right arm around your back, palm facing out and try to reach your left hand. If you can’t touch — and that’s common — take a towel or strap in your left hand and reach your right hand for the towel. Lift your left elbow toward the ceiling. Keep your spine tall.
After a minute or so, switch sides. Remember, if your right leg is on top, your right arm is the bottom arm — and if your left leg is on top, your left arm is the bottom.
This strengthens your core — your abs and back — as well as your hip flexors.
The move: Sit on your mat, bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor. Gently hold onto the backs of your thighs and lean back slightly. Lengthen your spine and pull your abdominals in to avoid collapsing in your chest. Lift both your feet so they create a straight line between your heels and your knees. You can hold onto your thighs or let go, extending your arms out parallel to your legs. Keep your chin off your chest and your abdominals engaged, then pull in as if your belly button could kiss your spine. Stay here in half boat pose until you can hold it for 1 minute.
From half boat, straighten your legs and lift them up diagonally so your body creates a V-shape. Arms reach forward, draw your shoulders back, lift the center of your chest, lift your chin away from your chest and pull your abdominals in even more. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
HALF LORD OF THE FISHES
This pose relieves spinal tension, opens the shoulders and stretches the hips.
The move: Sit on the floor or the edge of a blanket with your legs extended. Cross your right leg over left so your right knee points to the ceiling and your right foot sits outside your left knee. You can keep your left leg straight with the foot flexed or bend your left leg so that your left foot rests near your right hip. Try to keep both sit bones on the ground.
Inhale, elongate the spine and stretch your left arm overhead. Exhale and twist to the left, releasing your left hand to the floor behind you. Inhale and stretch your right arm overhead. Exhale and twist, bringing your right elbow to rest against the outside of your right knee. Continue to find length through the torso with each inhale, being conscious not to collapse through the chest. Hold for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
SUPINE TWIST WITH EAGLE LEGS
Twists increase spinal flexibility and mobility. Add eagle legs for a deeper hip and IT band stretch.
The move: Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Cross your right leg over your left, creating the same shape your legs take in eagle pose. Inhale deeply, exhale and lower your legs to the left. Extend both arms out in a T shape and look to the sky or over your right shoulder. Hold the pose for 5–10 breaths, return to center on an inhale and repeat on the other side.