It's that time of the year for strawberries and cream and 'New balls please', the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. But which Yoga poses should the likes of Murray, Djokavic and the Williams' sisters be practicing to help stretch and relax after their matches?
Talking of Murray, he recently revealed he uses Gyrotonic Yoga as part of his fitness regime. Gyrotonic Yoga originally called 'Yoga for Dancers' was developed by Juliu Horvath, former professional swimmer, gymnast and dancer and is practiced on a mat and chair and often used special equipment which enables you to move with support but also resistance.
Anyway back to Yoga we can all easily do. Here we've selected five Yoga poses you could try before you step on court to warm you up and focus your mind, or after to help your muscles stretch and recover.
Tennis is a pretty one-sided, meaning one side of the body tends to be more developed than the other. There’s a dominant side that gets more action, and the knees and ankles get their own share during lunges and sprints on the court. This can lead to muscular misalignment resulting in pain in the back, hips, and even in the legs and knees. That's where Yoga can help.
1. Cat/Cow movement.
For warming up and stretching your back
Get down on your hands and knees. Breathing in, lift your chest and bottom towards the ceiling, and as you breathe out, arch your back, bring forward your shoulder blades and drop your head. Feel the muscles on your back, and take notice if one side feels tighter than the other. Do this 6-8 times.
2. Pigeon Pose
Really deep stretch in your hips and stretches the quadriceps and hip flexors (for the side of the leg which is pointed to the back).
Start on your hands and knees, slide your right knee between your hands. Be mindful of the right knee, and if the knee feels stressed, bring the right ankle closer to the hip. Make sure your weight is evenly spread. You can support the upper body with your hands, or lower yourself to your elbows, or even completely to the floor. Stay in that position for three minutes if you can, then change sides.
3. Revolved Triangle Pose
Stretches the spine, chest and shoulders. It also strengthens and stretches the legs and can improve your balance.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, leave your right foot facing forward, while you turn the left foot slightly outwards. Square the hips towards the front of the mat, and place your right hand on your right hip. Breathe in, bring the left hand up, and as you breathe out bend from the hips, reaching forward to place your left hand on the outside of your right leg (you can always use a block if you need the extra length). Twist the upper body towards the right, keeping your right hand on your hip, or extending it towards the ceiling. Take 5 long breaths here.
4. Warrior II
Strengthens the core and the legs, stretches the chest, hips and shoulders.
Stand up straight in Mountain pose, and take a big step back with one leg. Turn the back foot parallel to the small side of the mat, raise your arms to shoulder-level, parallel to the floor, palms of your hands facing down. Breathe out, bend the front knee and bring it over the ankle. If needed, move the toes of the front foot so that your knee and toes are pointing in the same direction. Open your shoulders, keep your body centered and balanced. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
5. Tree Pose
Develops the balance, opens and stretches the hips.
Standing up tall, shift all your weight on one leg, lift up the other foot to place it on your inner thigh, or lower on your shin. Bring your palms together in front of the chest in prayer hands, slowly raise your arms above your head. Keep the arms shoulder-width apart or wider, if this feels better for your shoulders. Stay for 5-10 slow breaths, and enjoy the balance!
6. Cobra (as seen in the picture of the Wimbledon Ball boys and girls)
Stretches the lower back.
Lie on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug your elbows back into your body. Press the tops of your feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor. Breathe in, straighten your arms to lift your chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor as you breathe out.