Image credit: SportsYoga – Sarah Ramsden working with Ryan Giggs
Wow! This World Cup has been quite an adventure, hasn’t it? The England football team have done the nation proud and will come home with heads held high. Over the last month, we’ve witnessed some fantastic football games – breathtaking skills and inspirational teamwork.
Here at Yogamatters, this headline from the Express naturally caught our eye – World Cup: England stars relax with yoga after stunning quarter-final victory over Sweden. It’s wonderful to think that the England squad are recognising the power of yoga to relax and refresh and to re-energise for the next big game. The England squad are not alone in their appreciation of yoga. All over the UK, top football clubs and other professional athletes are turning to sports yoga for increased strength, flexibility and longevity in their careers.
According to Sarah Ramsden at Sports Yoga, this is how footballers can benefit from a regular yoga practice –
– Staying supple and sharp. Increasing range, suppleness and freedom of movement.
– Decreasing muscular / fascial tension.
– Core strength and switch on. Improving stamina and functional strength through precise core training.
– Reducing Injuries related to muscular over-use / restricted joint movement / core weakness.
– Extending careers by avoiding stiffness and loss of sharpness. Just like Ryan Giggs.
– Creating positive training habits in younger players so they stay supple and actively engage in ‘looking after’ their bodies.
As the World Cup draws to a close and we look forward to the start of the football season, Yogamatters took the opportunity to ask the experts how a regular yoga practice can support footballers (of any level) in their love of the game.
“I provided yoga sessions to the players in the first-team and development squads of Newcastle United FC for seven consecutive seasons. In this highly charged environment, it became clear that many individuals understood and adopted the specific breathing and relaxation techniques I taught, especially in the days immediately prior to important games. With honed professional athletes, the possibility of injury is never far away and so prevention was key to some of the flexibility / functional anatomy sessions as well as tailored post match recovery and relaxation classes. The adaptability of yoga was of clear benefit in catering to the individual needs of different players, many of whom adopted regular yoga sessions as an integral part of their training regimes.” – Ucci – Yoga Teacher
“Yoga helped players with flexibility, emphasising strength, body awareness and balance. Relaxation and team building are key too, as yoga does mean unity, so it’s been physically and mentally beneficial. Personally, yoga has helped me enormously to be able to demonstrate skills and in what can be a stressful job, deep rest. The discipline of a regular practice helped by my wife also brings a structure to my health and fitness.’” – Willie Donachie (played for Manchester City for 12 years and for the Scottish national team)
“I used to play football for 20 years and am now a yoga teacher! The benefits are amazing. Football is as much a mental game as a physical one, especially when it goes to penalties! Yoga is great for stretching the legs which get worked so hard in football. My calf muscles were so tight before practising yoga, I couldn’t even touch the floor. With over 6 years of yoga practice, I can now!” – Sue Hart – Yoga Teacher
“With many football clubs including Manchester City, Manchester United and even the England team incorporating yoga into their training programme, more and more players and coaches are starting to realise the benefits of yoga. Studies have shown that the playing of football has changed over the years as we see more sprinting, more explosive movements and more acrobatic skills (think of the overhead kick), which means players need to get smarter about how they train. During a match, players regularly execute moves at end ranges-of-motion, which means increased flexibility can help them execute those moves without injury. And as anyone who has ever attended a yoga class knows, yoga is all about stretching at end ranges of motion. How often does your yoga teacher ask you to find your ‘edge’ in an asana? But yoga doesn’t just improve flexibility. Yoga also strengthens connective tissue like tendons, ligaments and fascia which are necessary for joint stability. A footballer’s knees can take a battering during a match. And yoga poses strengthen the knees in many different positions from warrior lunges to deep squats to side splits which can strengthen the collateral ligaments responsible for stabilising the medial and lateral sides of the knee. But perhaps the greatest benefit of yoga is recovery and injury prevention. Physically, yoga is like a ‘tune-up’ for the body. Mentally, yoga is a practice in mindfulness. In fact, what separates yoga from plain-old stretching is our mind’s focus on the asana at hand. And when we’re moving mindfully, we don’t just get a stretch — we get to know our bodies and ourselves better.” – Matthew Huy – a Senior Yoga Teacher and anatomy trainer. He has regular classes at studios in Buckinghamshire and teaches anatomy to yoga teachers across the country.
“Yoga really is for everyone. For years, playing rugby and athletics, I’d put up with the getting by beating myself up in the gym lifting weights and repeating training drills, with the hope this would give me ‘the edge’, but more often than not, it left me nursing injuries, mentally and physically exhausted. It wasn’t until I’d retired from the competitive sport that I experienced the power of Yoga, alongside a daily practice that prioritised joint mobility and strength. I can honestly say I’m in the best shape of my life thanks to these new rituals. Every human being on the planet should make this a priority no matter what your goals are.” – Richie Norton – The Strength Temple Founder
“Yoga helps the players move better and faster on the pitch, be calmer under pressure, recover faster, injure less and play for many years longer. I can’t think of any other intervention with so many benefits.” – Sarah Ramsden, MSc., SYT Sarah has worked in professional football for 13 years, including 11 years at Manchester City & Manchester United football clubs, where she worked long-term with Ryan Giggs.
“As an endurance athlete, I found that yoga provides my body not only with the necessary R&R required to train on a daily basis without injury, but with the added bonus of additional core strength, flexibility and increased lung capacity required to be competitive in multi day ultra marathon trail events.” Marcus Rendle – Endurance Athlete.
And so the World Cup is nearly over for another four years and yet the training and preparation never end. We wish the England footballers well as they return home at the weekend for a well-deserved rest. And to all footballers everywhere – in fact, to all athletes everywhere – we hope that you too discover the benefits of a regular yoga practice for yourselves over the coming months.
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