As many dedicated players know, tennis is tough on the body. The game requires strength, flexibility and mental concentration. Many tennis players, from the amateurs to the pros, have discovered that the combination of yoga and tennis makes for a win-win situation.
Unlike sports such as running and cycling, where you move primarily in one plane, tennis players use the same arm for forehand and backhand strokes, which creates imbalances in muscle development on the left and right sides. Yoga can help build balance and symmetry on both sides of the body making players stronger and less prone to injury.
Tennis is also a game of strategy, being calm, centered and focused, are vital for success in a match. The focus on breathing and the mind-body connection in yoga helps athletes develop mental acuity and focus. When you practice yoga regularly, you bring energy into the body which can help players feel better instead of depleted after a match.
Still not enough to convince you to strike a pose?
Yoga can help your tennis game by developing:
Flexibility in the hips, back, ankles, shoulders, and wrists
Better range of motion to enable more strength and racquet speed
Better balance and core strength
Stronger, injury-prone joints
You'll be more likely to keep on trucking if you practice yoga poses off the court. Try these three poses to up your game.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
This pose strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists, which will steady the racquet against the impact of the ball. It also stretches tight hamstrings, which can be caused by hours spent on the court with bent legs.
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor.
At first, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lift the buttock bones toward the ceiling. With an exhalation, push your top thighs back into your hamstrings and stretch your heels down toward the floor. Straighten your knees. Stay for 15 seconds to one minute breathing evenly.
Marichyasana 3 (Marichi's Twist), Variation
Twists correct the imbalance between the right and left sides of the body and add power by strengthening and opening the upper body.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. If your lower back rounds, sit on a folded blanket. Bend your right knee in and put your foot on the ground. The right knee will point directly up at the ceiling.
Cup the right fingertips on the floor behind you. Lift the spine. Inhale and reach your left arm up to the ceiling. Exhale and twist to the right. Place your left elbow on the outside of the right knee. Press the elbow into the knee. Turn your gaze over your right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute breathing evenly. Switch sides.
Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), Variation
This pose targets rotator cuff areas made tight by overhead serving.
From a standing position, place a yoga strap or towel over your left shoulder. Inhale, bend your right arm, and press the forearm into the hollow of your lower back. Take hold of the strap with the right hand.
Inhale and stretch your left arm up, palm facing forward. Exhale and bend the left elbow and take the left hand to the strap. Inch the hands toward each other. Keep the navel drawing in toward the spine and try not to round the lower back. If possible, join the fingers. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute breathing evenly. Switch sides.
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