|ESPN.com: Athlete's Life||[Print without images]|
|Different positions have different demands, but these yoga poses offer a foundation of flexibility and strength for softball players.|
Each month, yoga coach Gwen Lawrence chooses a sport and shows us the top five poses designed to keep athletes in the game. This month, the focus is on softball.
Often yoga is thought of as a means to increase flexibility, but in my practice, I work with athletes on six aspects for success: balance, strength, flexibility, focus, breath work and mental toughness.
For softball players, the goal is to open key areas for range of motion, and to strengthen legs and hips for greater power at the plate. Adding flexibility to the spine and increasing its ability to twist can help the player bring the hips through and drive the ball. Shoulder work is key for powerful throws and keeping the arm healthy.
In sharing my top five yoga poses for softball players, I am mindful that each position on the field has its own demands (an outfielder has different needs than a pitcher, and so on). But in general, let's focus on these five. (As always, consult a doctor before you begin any new exercise program.)
Warrior one: Adding warrior one to to your yoga workouts will develop strength in the quadriceps, open the hip flexors and touch on the groin/inner thigh. I recommend softball players hold the pose for one minute on each side to challenge muscle power, hone athlete focus and mental toughness, and encourage the use of breath to get you through it. It will also add strength and mobility to the arms. Try it a couple of times each side.
Squat: This pose is extremely important for athletes to master to keep the knee joint lubricated and open. If at first you have a hard time, do it against the wall. Squat also focuses on opening the calves, Achilles tendons and ankles, all of which play a roll in increasing your speed and agility when they are flexible. Work up to holding squat for three minutes. While you are holding it the pose will strengthen the back as well, so be mindful that you are pulling the shoulders back and pressing heart forward. It will be challenging, but stay with it.
Right angle pose: This pose is excellent for strengthening the legs, increasing their flexibility and creating power in the hips and spine. I recommend you do a variation where you windmill the arm around the front of your body while holding it. Circling the arm will warm the shoulder joint and keep it strong in all directions. Hold the pose for as long as it takes to circle the arm 10 times in each direction.
Lunge twist: It's easy to see and feel that this pose will further strengthen and stretch the legs, but adding the twist opens the spinal rotation for more authority at the plate. When your back is flexible, it takes some of the burden off the shoulder when throwing. Hold this pose for one minute on each side and repeat two to three times.
Plank: Plank, pure and simple, is the powerhouse of yoga poses. Although it looks innocent, it is a full-body pose. For the softball player it will strengthen the shoulder joint in all directions, create a strong core and back, and build mental toughness. Try to hold this pose for one to three minutes and rest in child's pose when done.
Gwen Lawrence owns Power Yoga for Sports and works with athletes in Professional basketball, football, baseball, hockey soccer as well as Olympians and collegiate champions. Follow her on twitter @gwenlawrence and www.gwenlawrence.com.