Want to improve your golf game, boost your bowling score or balance effortlessly on the surfboard? Whatever your sport, whatever your game, take yoga with you for an instant upgrade and a little insurance. • Yoga offers strengthening that dumbbells and gym machines can't quite reach. Improve your deep core and hip flexor strength, and improve your balance with a consistent yoga practice. • Nudge your endurance with an Ashtanga or Power Yoga practice, each of which is designed to create power and define the body. • Restorative yoga or a Vinyasa class will leave you feeling revitalized. The deep lengthening in yoga extends into all the joints, improving range of motion throughout the body. Men, especially, see results in hip flexibility, a common area of resistance and one that plays a role in every sport. • The deep breathing in yoga will increase your lung capacity. Mental toughness comes from yoga's great focus and concentration as you move through its demands. Leave a practice with a serene and centered mind, ready to take on the next challenge. No matter what your goals, yoga can help get you there.
Try these three postures to strengthen the core and upper body, stretch through the joints and improve ankle, knee and wrist stability:
MOUNTAIN POSE TO LUNGE
Stand tall, arms at your sides. As you inhale, lift the arms over the head, bend the knees slightly and fold forward over the legs as you exhale. Step the right leg back, reaching 3 or 4 feet behind you, and bring the right knee to the floor (if you're more advanced, keep the knee off the ground). Bend deeply through the front leg, keeping the knee over the ankle. Try raising your arms overhead for stretching and strengthening, or if that's difficult, slide the front foot a little to the left, and place both hands on the floor, next to the big toe. Hold for three or four slow, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
PLANK TO YOGIC PUSHUP
Assume a pushup position, balancing on the toes and hands. Your body should be in a straight line from the crown of the head to the heels, and your arms are straight. Be sure not to crunch the shoulders up; imagine you can pull the shoulder blades down toward your waist. Spread your fingers wide and firm the thighs, but keep your buttocks relaxed. Hold for three or four deep breaths. Slowly lower toward the floor as you exhale, keeping the upper arms close to the body. Hover with the chest just above the floor; hold for another three or four breaths. Lower completely and rest for a few breaths.
SIDE ARM BALANCE
From plank, roll to the right side. Keep the legs straight if you can (bend the bottom knee if necessary) or bring the top foot to the floor alongside the bottom foot for more stability. While the bottom hand firms into the floor under the shoulder, raise the upper arm straight up so that the arms form as straight a line as possible from fingertip to fingertip. Lift the hips toward the ceiling so that the inner body begins to arch. Take this slowly, going to an arc that doesn't stress the spine. Hold for three or four deep breaths.
Put the poses together for a minisequence. As with any type of exercise, sharp pain is an indication to stop. Be mindful of any current injuries and limitations; modify as needed. Practice these for a few weeks and watch the changes. Then run longer, bike faster, swing farther; you've got yoga.
Diana Reed is a Hernando County yoga instructor. Her website is dianareed.net.