yoga for rugby
posted: August 18, 2013
Founder of Open Yoga, Edwina Black got caught up in rugby fever and shared with us the benefits of how yoga can not only strengthen an athlete’s performance physically, but mentally as well.
Yoga and rugby seem like unlikely allies, but in recent years more and more rugby teams are turning to yoga and embracing its healing benefits.
A rugby supporter from way back, I have watched in amazement at the growing popularity of yoga among rugby players and its increasingly common home in the fitness programs of professional rugby players. You’ll just as likely see a prop move through their sun salutations as you will see them form a scrum. Half backs are practising their Half Moon Pose and wingers their Warrior Is.
Rugby is pretty unique in the world of competitive team sports. A notoriously high impact and full contact sport, injuries are part and parcel of being a rugby player. The nature of the game, coupled with intensive fitness programs, means that players must find ways to minimise the threat of injury during play. This is where yoga comes in.
The slow-paced, low-impact nature of yoga, with its particular focus on strengthening the postural muscles deep inside the body helps to prevent injury in many ways. With rapid directional changes at full sprint, unnatural body positions during scrums and high impact collisions during tackling, flexibility and core strength are the key to minimising injury in rugby. Asanas that work on core strength, upper and lower spinal rotation and strength and flexibility in arms and legs, can help control and balance the body during aggressive play, thus reducing the risk of damage to joints and bones.
Aside from the physical benefits, yoga prepares rugby players for the mental side of the game. Players must work towards a focused, calm mind in order to make smart play decisions or take that penalty kick. Breath control through pranayama techniques, mantras and visualisations are all tools rugby players use in the game. Awareness of the breath and the cultivation of deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help players stay calm throughout the play and also relax players post-game.
So which poses should rugby players practise? Well, there really is a myriad to choose from, but, as a snap shot, for core strength work with Boat Pose and Side Plank; for spinal rotation try Revolved Triangle or Revolved Half Moon; legs and arms can be strengthened doing Eagle, Chair and Dolphin Poses; and for a good stretch out through the arms, legs and hips, you can’t beat Lizard, Half Pigeon, Bound Angle Pose, Downward Dog and Humble Warrior. Finish the practice with some breathing work like Nadi Shodhana to calm the mind and always make time for Savasana, the final relaxation.
Edwina has been practicing yoga for 8 years, and has had vast experience teaching athletes from all walks of life in her classes.