Yoga for athletes helps sports players to target their problem areas. For example, yoga for basketball players focuses on improving flexibility in the ankles and working on releasing tension in the legs and shoulders. A yoga class for cyclists will focus on improving flexibility in the hips, while yoga for runners can improve flexibility in the hamstrings. Yoga for athletes includes Vinyasa, or flow, yoga as well as Bikram yoga. Athletes who are injured may benefit from a restorative yoga class.
During a Vinyasa class, an athlete will move through a variety of poses in rapid succession. Vinyasa is great for cardiovascular activity as well as improving an athlete's endurance, as there are no breaks between poses. Sun salutations are common during Vinyasa classes.
Bikram yoga is practiced in a room heated to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38 degrees Celsius). During this type of yoga for athletes, students move through 26 poses twice during the class. The heat in the room can help athletes improve flexibility but can also lead to injury, as students are unaware of when they are straining too much.
Yoga for athletes who are injured should focus on improving the athlete's alignment while avoiding further injury. Athletes should be shown how to properly keep their shoulders and hips aligned with the body to reduce the risk of injury and to help themselves heal. Healing with yoga for athletes can be a slow process, so they should be warned not to rush things. To help reduce tension and injury in the legs and hips, athletes may want to try an inverted asana, or body position, such as positioning the hips and legs against the wall. The bridge pose can help reduce shoulder tension and stretch the upper body.
Poses that can help athletes include the one-legged pigeon pose, which opens the hips, and the hero pose, which relives tension in the ankles. An athlete gets into the pigeon pose by starting on all fours. She then slides the left leg behind her as the right leg bends and comes in front. The left leg should stay aligned with the hip while the right knee angles slightly outward. The athlete should support herself with her hands flat on the floor. If she can stay upright without keeping her hands on the floor, she can place them on her hips.
The hero pose, or virasana, is a restorative pose good for improving flexibility in the ankles and calves. An athlete kneels on the floor with his legs a little wider than hip distance apart. He should sit with his buttocks between his feet, either directly on the floor or on a block, and hold the pose for a minute.