Updated: Sep 16, 2021
The idea of footballers busting out the full lotus may seem a little preposterous, however, the benefits of the flexibility and joint support gained by yoga can give footballers (and, in fact, any athletes) the edge over their opponents.
Yoga for footballers is ideal for players looking to protect themselves against injury. Compression in the lower spine and excess movements of the hamstrings, groin, glutes, quads, and hip flexors are all quite common complaints. Yoga can alleviate the regular and often intensive strain placed on the body when playing football, as well as improving mental acuity, concentration, and increasing stamina.
I work one to one with footballers or in small groups and have not only noticed the physical effects but have also witnessed improved confidence and a contagious lightheartedness which is a joy to observe.
Yoga for footballers ideally needs to include asana such as:
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
This inversion increases flexibility in the calves, hamstrings and shoulders, and erector spinae. It also a heart and shoulder opener which serves to strengthen the muscles in the arms and upper back.
Uttanasana (Intense Forward Fold)
The hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae can all benefit from the Intense Forward Fold. It also helps promote pelvic stability and enhances the ability to fold from the hips.
Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge Pose)
This Pose is ideal for opening the groin and increasing flexibility in the hips and quadriceps. Balance, scapular stability, and proprioception can all be improved alongside the strengthening of the abductors, adductors gluteals, and shoulders.
Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
This is a master asana, one of my favorites and the whole of the spine can be strengthened with this pose, as can the hamstrings, calves, and gluteal muscles. Flexibility in the quadriceps, psoas, chest, and abdominals are also increased.
Virasana (Hero Pose)
If performed consistently and properly, Hero Pose can be used to increase flexibility in the quadriceps, particularly the Rectus Femoris. It also aids stabilisation of the pelvic girdle and mobility in the ankles.
All of these poses can be modified to suit every level of practitioner. I can also work with teams after matches for a more restorative and relaxing yoga practice, where we can use props such as blocks, blankets, and bolsters, utilising longer holds to stretch tired muscles but fully supported throughout with the props.