As “doers” who like to work and play hard for the love of the game, it comes with a price. Let’s face it. Tennis is a hard sport on the body. We can use yoga postures for injury prevention as we begin to feel overuse injuries arise, and we can also use them to gain strength, flexibility, agility, and balance.
Yoga allows us to be proactive.
Yoga allows us to help ourselves out and pick a pose that we need (depending on where it’s called for in the body) and in most cases, we don’t need a lot to practice, but ourselves and a willingness to try. Giving yourself 5 minutes a day after practice would be my suggestion to begin to incorporate a little yoga and a lot of self-care in your life…why? Because you deserve it!
Yoga allows us to slow down.
I once got upset with a chiropractor who asked and suggested if I ever “slowed down.” In my head, I said: “I come to you, so I don’t have to!” Deep down I know that it got to me because I knew he was right. Yoga allows us the opportunity to keep going but with the contrast of a slow and mindful manner. This can initially feel like torture (this is a sign you REALLY need it!) Know that if it’s challenging it only means that you’re getting a lot out of the practice. Learning to slow down is crucial so that we don’t rush certain rituals on the court such as serving, and it’s also a wonderful balance to all the uncontrolled movements we take on the court. As we become more aware of our bodies in space on the mat, we do on court as well, which can help tremendously if you’re working on technique. How slow can you go???
Yoga allows us the opportunity to Breathe.
Are you guilty of holding your breath on the court while hitting strokes? I know many of my clients are guilty of this until they are shown how to use their breath, not only to help with fatigue over the course of a long rally but in order to bring fluidity to the strokes. I know many of you have asked your coaches how you can get more power while playing—it’s the ease that the breath brings, that “letting go” sensation if you will, that makes the stroke feel oh so good with a lot less effort. On the mat we learn to do this slowly, synchronizing movement to breathe. Take this same idea on the court, as you hit within the “short court” with a partner exhaling every time you swing your racquet forward. It takes a little practice, but in a general yoga class, you will be reminded many times of when to inhale and exhale, and hopefully, your coach will do the same if you express interest in learning.
In summary, what I love about yoga is that it’s the perfect balance to this sport we love so much. You’ve heard that it’s good for you for just about every reason under the sun. Why not do it for your tennis game—as tennis players you know we’re just about willing to try anything if it allows us to play longer and with more authority. There’s a reason why this practice is gaining traction on the WTA tour. This is one habit we want to emulate!
*For ideas on how to incorporate Yoga for Tennis, please subscribe to the Play Tennis. Practice Yoga. ® YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG9Z8Cc0eAubMu1Gl9P_aEg and follow Margit Bannon (USPTA Elite Tennis Pro/ Yoga Alliance Yoga Teacher) @playtennispracticeyoga on Instagram.