Yoga By Mercedes Aspland / September 18, 2015 If you play football at any level then you are sure to have heard of one professional or another using yoga in a variety of different ways. However many misconceptions about yoga still exist, for example, many players might think it is a thing women do or you may just think it is a series of stretches. Both of these ideas are a long way off the mark and so I thought I would put this article together to demonstrate the ways in which yoga can benefit anyone that plays football in a serious way. 1. Reduce Injury Risk – ‘Prehab’ This is one of the most important things if you play football regularly as injuries are easy to pick up and can see you missing large parts of the season. By using the correct yoga exercises you can increase the stability of the body as well as increasing strength and so reducing the risk of developing an injury. On the other side of this yoga also increases awareness and this includes the awareness of how the body feels which means you may be aware of an injury before it escalates. The overall result is you can stop earlier and reduce the amount of time you are out of the game. 2. Increase Injury Recovery – ‘Rehab’ Although yoga is best used as a tool for prehab it is also a valuable tool in your rehab. If you decide to work with a Yoga Sports Coach then they can work with you and your physios to produce a program tailored to you. This will include strengthening and stabilising areas supporting the injury or just to give you a place to unwind from other rehab activities. 3. Improve Balance Developing good balance is absolutely vital for any footballer. When playing balance is something you use regularly as every time you kick the ball you are required to transfer your weight to the standing leg while still moving dynamically. Having strong responsive feet and the ability to keep the body stable in these positions is an essential skill. Many footballers will not notice instabilities when they are playing and training and although they are able to cope when they are young as they age these instabilities can damage the body and reduce playing time. 4. Increase Proprioception Skills Proprioception is the ability to sense where the body is in space so obviously the greater these skills are the easier it will be for you to control the ball and be aware of what your feet are doing. Plus another added bonus to increasing these skills is it can also work as an injury prevention tool. For example the greater your proprioception skills the lower your chance of incurring injuries like ACL ruptures which can have a significant recovery time. Yoga is one of the best ways to increase your proprioception skills and an absolute must for any serious footballer. 5. Get into the Zone Being able to switch on your concentration for a game and keep it is vital for any successful footballer. There are a number of yoga breathing exercises that can help you to focus before the game and also during the game at significant points like taking a free kick. Plus yoga teaches how to flow and block out the distractions of the mind meaning you can be more focused on the game and get that feeling of being in the zone more easily. 6. Strengthens the Core If you play football at any level then you will be aware of how many footballers suffer from bad backs, this is partly due to having a week core. When we are talking about core we mean everything from the bottom of the pelvis up to the shoulders. In yoga we work on strengthening the deep structural muscles that will keep the body stable and truly strong allowing it to perform for longer and at a higher intensity. Any weaknesses in the core will significantly affect not only your performance but also your long term health. 7. Increase Speed and Power Through many of the techniques in yoga you can increase your range of motion but also increase the strength through this new range of motion. This means that not only will you be able to move faster but also have greater power. For a footballer this could actually translate into being able to kick the ball harder. We have all seen how hard Ronaldo can kick the ball and this is largely due to the huge strength in his legs combined with an excellent range of motion in order to develop the maximum power. 8. Increase Respiratory Endurance The respiratory demands put on footballers are high, they need excellent aerobic endurance but also the ability to switch to the anaerobic respiratory system when needed. This is where yoga could have significant benefits, by learning a number of techniques you can learn how to reduce recovery time after a sprint as well as being able to run further in a game. Many of the techniques will help to increase vital capacity and VO2 Max. I always recommend working with a trained Yoga Sports CoachTM to learn the techniques ensuring you get the benefits without putting the body under stress. 9. Increase Longevity A footballers career is short and so anything you can do that might extend it must be considered as part of a training schedule. Many of the points already discussed will work to help increase the length of time that you can play for. The famous example of Ryan Giggs and the contribution of yoga to his extended career is well documented. The benefits for each player will vary but there is certainly a lot of information to suggest it could have career lengthening benefits and the earlier you start in your career the better. 10. Improve Game Recovery If you are looking for something to help you recover from the demands of playing then yoga could be the perfect option. There are a number of restorative exercises that can be incorporated into an active recovery programme. If you find your muscles ache after a game and that your recovery time is increasing then introducing a yoga programme after a game could have significant benefits. Some of these benefits may surprise you and they do not fit the stereotype of yoga practise with girls getting themselves into contorted positions. The best way to get the maximum out of your yoga practise is to work with a Yoga Sports CoachTM, that way you will get a yoga programme specifically tailored to you. If you would like to know more about these benefits or would like to know how to use yoga as a footballer then please get in touch with me on 07841 363 045 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to talk you through how Yoga Sports Coaching can help you and how to get started with working with me.