Focus, balance and injury prevention are the top three reasons tennis players continue to roll out their yoga mats daily.
As Novak Djokovic prepares for his Wimbledon quarter-final match today, you too might be inspired this week to dust off the tennis racket and head out onto the court. It's fitting to mention that alongside fellow tennis superstars, Andy Murray and Serena Williams, Djokovic maintains a regular yoga practise as a source of recovery whilst grinding it out on the professional circuit.
Yoga has long been accredited by some of the top players as a first-rate way to add those extra margins to their performance, stamina, recovery and ability to stave off injury. Yoga builds stronger core muscles, increases energy and improves full-body coordination.
Greater flexibility increases your range of motion, which is great for tennis players. Being able to move through a full range of motion allows you to reach balls you otherwise would not be able to, while improving your power generation. With a full range of motion, you can twist fully in your serves, extend through your forehands and backhands, reach down low to volleys and turn defence into attack on a stretching passing shot.
Yoga helps with joint decompression which is a key benefit if you play a lot of tennis. Holding yoga poses also helps with blood circulation, muscle soreness and stiffness, and injury prevention.
Better balance stems from holding yoga poses with sound breath, which is a key element on the tennis court where you need to be nimble and change directions efficiently.
During a yoga session, you aim to concentrate solely on the task at hand. When this happens, all those outside distractions occupying your mind need to be pushed to one side. This creates mental clarity that can then be transferred into other areas of your life, including on the tennis court.
Whether you play on the professional circuit, or have the occasional hit with friends, here are my top five yoga poses before and after you pick up the tennis racket.
Cat Cow: This yoga pose is fantastic for releasing tension in the spine and back muscles, along with improving breath control.
Thread the Needle Pose: One of my favourite yoga poses for opening the shoulders, chest, arms, upper back, and neck, releasing tension that is commonly held in the upper back and between the shoulder blades from serving.
Half Pigeon Pose: Essential for stretching out your hip flexors and glutes, which are two fundamental body parts used for tennis.
Revolved Triangle Pose: Here is a yoga pose that is great for stretching the upper body. You will relieve tension from your chest, spine and shoulders by rotating through the pose, along with improving balance.
Tree Pose: This yoga balance helps to stretch and strengthen the hips while balancing out both sides of the body.
You don't need to be a Wimbledon Champion to use yoga as a performance boost next time you put on your tennis shoes. Yoga is readily available, especially if you have subscribed to the Activ Life Online Studio. Sign up for a 14 Day Free Trial and explore over 100 yoga, cardio and Pilates classes.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Your simple stretch guide and 6 best balancing basics.