As a yoga instructor for the past years, I have taught yoga to many athletes. They lead an active lifestyle (running, badminton, soccer etc) but they are mostly very inflexible and often experience back pain, tight calves etc. Yoga to them, is a great balance to their active lifestyle – Yoga complements it. Yoga stretches the tired muscles and aids in muscle recovery. How you use your breath in Yoga is also very important but I will leave that to the next article. In the article (source: https://www.shape.com/blogs/working-it-out/why-every-athlete-should-do-yoga) below, you will find the benefits of yoga for athletes.
Yoga is for everyone, athletes included. Yoga works on strength, flexibility, balance, agility, endurance, core, and overall strength, among other things. Any athlete could benefit hugely by adding yoga to her or his training regimen. Here’s more details on a few of the perks:
Strength: No amount of weight-lifting with free weights will give you the strength that consistently holding up your own body weight will.
Flexibility: Practicing yoga increases flexibility and ease of movement, therefore increasing range of motion. In particular, athletes in sports that require swinging action (tennis, golf, etc.) can benefit greatly. Flexibility in general also helps to prevent injury.
Balance: Balancing poses in yoga improve overall balance in everything you do, preventing falls and injury. When you learn how to be soft and go with the flow, you can more easily bend and are less likely to break or fall over.
Endurance: The endurance that the ease of yoga gives you lends to endurance sports like running, triathlons, and Iron Mans. When you learn to tune into your body and mind, everything can be a meditation—sports included. Yoga also helps you learn how to pace yourself: slow and steady, in it for the long haul.
Core: Almost everything you do in yoga works on your core strength. Strong core equals a healthy back and a healthy body.
Stability: Yoga helps strengthen all of the little stabilizing muscles that people tend to miss in other physical workouts and are vital in protecting your joints and spine (among other things).
Recovery: Yoga also helps put athletes back together after injuries. Again: You’re tuning into your body and giving it the care it wants and needs. Yoga also elongates all of the muscles that athletes spend so long contracting, so it is a great counter-action.
Most importantly, yoga changes the way you think and approach everything in life: When you learn to move with ease and stop forcing things, you will prevent injuries and your body will open with your mind, increasing your flexibility all around.
I was reading this article a couple of days back and I feel these are useful pointers to manage anxiety and stress in this world – where perfection is overrated in social media, and almost everyone is glued to their digital devices. And you don’t have to spend a fortune using these pointers. I will recommend to head over to the link to read more as I will only be putting the main points here.
It is true, we do not really think about stretching our calf muscles that often, compared to our hips or hamstrings. How often do you walk in to a yoga class, hearing the instructor say “we will be focusing on hips in today’s class...”
As I teach more students throughout the past 5 years, I came to realise that I should pay more attention to the calves because tight calves will eventually led to many other aspects such as accessibility to a yoga pose, body pain etc. Taking my personal experience as an example, I used to dislike the pose - Malasana (squat pose, see photo at the end).
For the longest time, I thought my tight hips was the main reason why I had a hard time trying to flatten my entire feet down on the floor or I could not stay long in it. Doing more hip opening poses did help a bit, but I also forgot to stretch my calves which is crucial in a squat form.
Aside from accessibility to yoga poses, our calves play a big role in leg movement and tightness will often lead to pain in other body parts eg. lower back pain
Often when we have lower back pain, it is true that tight hamstrings and hips do play a big part. But what if after stretching our hips and hammies out, we still feel the pain? Maybe it’s time we think about the calves in this case. For some people, they probably do not even know they have tight calves, because they do not feel ache or pain in the calves at all, yet their lower back pain could be caused by tight calves. Pretty amazing yea? There is probably an anatomical explanation behind it but I will leave it to the experts to explain it. This is why every “body” is different and we all need our own kind of yoga - there is no “one size fits all” in yoga.
If you wear heels regularly or sit at a desk for the whole day, daily calf stretches will benefit you in the long run. You do not need to have any body pain to start stretching your calves.
Here you will find an article on 5 good calf stretches which I personally do and include in my own classes. My recommended daily dose will be 2 sets of 30s for each sets. Feel free to increase the sets when you do not feel much stretch after a while.