Yoga for Sports Series: Yoga for Baseball Players
First off if you haven't gotten a chance to read our "Yoga for Sports Series: Some of the Benefits That Yoga Has on Athletes and Their Training" blog, check that post out first, as we discuss broadly, how yoga can help athletes and their training.
Brief Explanation of Yoga:
Before we talk about yoga for baseball players, let’s discuss what yoga is, as it continues to grow in popularity as a widely used from of CAM therapy.
In short, yoga is an ancient mind & body practice that includes a deep rooted history, literally dating back thousands of years, many believe originating in India. In general, yoga combines postures (asanas), breathing, and other awareness techniques, to promote and improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
It just so happens that many touted claims, and anecdotal evidence of the benefits of this ancient practice, have been now studied in the more modern era.
Oftentimes a Yogi or someone who practices the art of yoga, will practice several different types, before they find one that suits there needs or individualities. There is no such thing as "baseball yoga", however combining poses, sequences, styles and/or end-goals, one may be able to better themselves from a physical and mental standpoint within their genre of sport.
Oftentimes a yogi will practice several different styles of yoga, or even combine different more prevalent or core asanas to one style in a routine of their own, as there is no real "best way" for every person to practice.
Why Should Baseball Players do Yoga?
There are many ways for baseball players to prep before a game. However, yoga may just be one of the more effective preparatory applications on the rise. MLB clubs have even taken notice of this ancient practice to potentially help with Balancing the Power of Mind and Body. For instance, the Baltimore Orioles organization started participating in virtual mobility classes, according to MLB.com.
This program was lead by Functional Yoga Instructor Tracy Hayes, according to MLB News. Yoga is amazing in that it can truly be tailored to suit your needs, whether you're a major league baseball player, a bodybuilder, or someone just looking to increase their daily functional levels. The trick is finding the right "type of yoga", sequences, asanas, that will inevitably lead to the goals you are trying to achieve.
In baseball, we probably are all very well aware how important the core is to everything we do within the sport. One of the areas focused on within Tracy's program, was areas of the core. There was also emphasis on improving explosive movements, power, and pitching motions through understanding how muscles work together in these moments.
As a baseball player, or any other athlete, yoga is not the only answer, but it can be another tool to use at your disposal, to help you become a more well rounded athlete in general, if done regularly and with purpose.
Let's Take A Look at A Few Studies:
a. One study included 19 male college athletes (baseball and soccer players). These college athletes participated in a yoga program 8-weeks in length. Specifics of the program included 60-minute classes with asanas and pranayama (breathing). At the end of the program the athletes were interviewed.
As part of the conclusions within the study, the players acknowledged that yoga was beneficial for joint flexibility, range of motions, improved body awareness, improved ability to concentrate, and a better sense of relaxation.
b. There is other research out there suggesting yoga for recovery programs for MLB pitchers. In comes a small pilot program, which included recovery of pitchers who participated in 60-minute yoga classes the day after pitching, and another 60-minute vinyasa class the day after that. The study looked at multiple variables, that you can read more about here. It concluded or suggested that "yoga speeds up recovery process of several key fatigue markers".
Research into yoga for baseball players, and athletes in general, will likely continue to grow, as it seems researchers have just started to graze the surface of the opportunities and improvements that can come from incorporating yoga into specific or individualized training.
Below we'll discuss some of the more beginner-friendly, common yoga poses for baseball players.
Easy Yoga Poses for Baseball Players:
You truly don't have to be a yoga expert to benefit from this practice, and oftentimes some of the stretches you do daily, may even be closely related to specific yoga poses.
The key is to tailor your yoga routine to your genre of sport, or your purpose!
Here are a few common poses for baseball players to get your started.
1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Forward fold yoga pose is a simple, but great way to prepare your hips, lower back, and legs for a game. If you are someone prone to tightness in your hamstrings, this is an especially helpful stretch. Multiple variations of this pose exist in yoga, like the seated-forward fold or Paschimottanasana, done simply seated on the going.
1. Begin with your legs/feet about shoulder-width apart. You can also try this with your legs together, making the stretch slightly more difficult.
2. Exhale, and begin to bend at the hips, bring your head toward your knees. If flexibility is not your strength, you may begin with your knees bent slightly, and improve from there.
3. As you descend with your upper torso, extend your hand to the ground or behind you ankles.
4. Begin to focus with each exhalation, extend a little further. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings, and spine.
5. Hold this pose for 30 seconds - 1 minute. Bend at the knees, with the back straight, arms to the sides, inhale back to the mountain pose.
2. Standing Side Bend
Another great asana that can be beneficial for baseball players are side-bends. Side-bends, like this one, tend to work or activate the core, obliques, intercostals, and lats. A perfect way to get ready to "swing away".
There are several modifications you can make to this pose, as it can also be done seated for multiple other variations. The standing side-bend is a beginner friendly pose and an easy one to get started with.
1. First start by standing, feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Hands at your sides, toes should be pointing forward
3. Now, exhale and bring your arms up overhead until you are able to interlock your fingers. Engage your core.
4. Begin to gently bend to the right side. You should begin to feel a stretch on the left side of your core, lats.
5. Breath for a few cycles, then inhale and come back to center. Exhale and lean to the left.
3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Facing Dog is one of the most well-known yoga poses, and if you're looking for a full-body stretch, this is a great pose to do before you play baseball.
Adho Mukha Svanasana activates your core, arms, shoulder, hamstrings, ankles, back and pelvic region. This is both, a pose for stretch and strength.
1. To get into a downward facing dog, get on your hands and knees. Spread your palms out, and keep your knees hip-width apart.
2. Start lifting your knees off the ground and press your toes into the mat. Simultaneously, lifting your hips-up as well, keeping your back straight.
3. As your hips continue toward the ceiling, press out through your fingers and palms toward the edge of the mat. Your chest should be reaching towards your thighs with this movement.
4. Press you heels down to the mat, stretching the calves.
5. Your neck at the end-point should be looking up toward your naval or belly button.
6. Hold the pose for t a few slow breathing cylices or 30 seconds.
4. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Lunge poses of all types are a must if you're athlete. Not only do they provide stretch to your lower body and core muscles, but they are great for strength building and balance.
This is the Crescent Low Lunge pose. A beginner friendly standing pose, also offering a great back-bend type stretch.
1. This is a great pose to sequence into from Downward-Facing Dog, as you simply step your right foot in-between you hands. Your right knee should be directly above the right foot.
2. With your hands still remaining on the floor for balance, your left knee should be brought to the floor behind you until you begin to feel a stretch.
3. Once balanced in this position, we can begin to bring our hands off the floor, up to our sides and overhead. Our torso will also come up with them, pushing our chest forward, shoulder back.
4. Gaze up with your eyes, neck, slightly arching back.
5. Hold this pose for 30 seconds - 1 minute.
5. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
A yoga pose done in the prone position, Child's pose, is a well known asana, benefitting areas of the body like the lower back, and hips. Balasana is a great post-workout pose and oftentimes seen in restorative yoga routines for it's ability to be held for a considerable amount of time. Child’s pose is relaxing and healing for the body.
This is also a pose that can help bring balance to other more rigorous poses in a routine. Child's pose is known as a forward-bend, inversion-type pose.
1. One of the easiest ways to begin this pose is from the Table-top position, or simply kneeling on the floor.
2. Touch your big toes together, then lower your hips/buttocks' on-top of your heels.
3. Bend forward, placing your forehead on the mat.
4. The hands can rest in multiple position. They can be overtop your head, extended with the palms face down, or by your sides with palms-up.
5. Breath in this position for 1 minute.
As you can see there are different poses here that may even reflect stretches that you do daily. The point here is to not just go through the motions, but actually think about what you're stretching and what you are doing with each posture.
Yoga can be great for all athletes, baseball players included. We hope you have learned a few new yoga poses that you and anyone preparing to play the great game of baseball can do.
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