Building Power Through Yoga

Carlos Cossio
Downward dog

When it comes time for athletes to train hard so they can “throw down” on the court, players like Mike Morrison are running to their yoga mat. Yes, they are turning to yoga! Yoga provides the opportunity to simultaneously build and stretch functional muscles, ultimately increasing power on the court.

How exactly does yoga affect the development of power? Power is a product of strength and speed. Yoga poses are able to build both strength and flexibility; but what about speed? Speed is related to the length of your stride. By increasing flexibility, you are directly lengthening your stride, thus improving speed.

As a RAW Sports Yoga coach (rawsportsyoga.com), I recommend the following poses for volleyball players looking to build strength, increase flexibility, and ultimately elevate the magnitude of power in their game.

Hold each pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remember to breathe.

Final Thoughts: Keep at it!

Like training in any sport, yoga requires persistence, discipline, and an open mind. Yoga is difficult for everyone when they first start, but don’t feel discouraged. Taking small steps to integrate yoga into your training can not only result in an enhancement of your overall game but can also reduce the risk of injury. A more limber body is less likely to pull a muscle, break a bone, or inflame a tendon. Moving with more dexterity on the court will allow you to perform at your highest potential.

Increase Flexibility

Downward Dog

From hands and knees, tuck your toes and lift your hips toward the sky as you straighten your legs. Your body makes an upside-down V shape. Your feet are about hip-width apart and hands are shoulder-width apart with index fingers pointing forward.

Release your shoulders down your back away from your ears, engage your core, and work towards placing your feet flat on the floor.

Benefits
Your hands, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, back, core, feet, and ankles are all stretched out in this pose. This will allow you to start your warm'ups on the court with more overall mobility.

Modifications
For sensitive wrists drop down to your forearms. For tight hamstrings or lower back, bend your knees.

Cow Face Arms

From either a standing or sitting position, reach your right arm up next to your ear and rotate at your wrist so your thumb is pointing behind you. Bend your elbow to place your hand flat on your upper back.

With your left arm at your side, palm facing back, reach your left hand behind you and try to clasp your hands. Work your shoulders away from your ears.

Repeat with the opposite arm.

Benefits
This position provides a major stretch in your shoulders, chest, and triceps. It will increase your reach and improve follow-through when hitting and serving.

Modifications
If your hands don’t quite meet, bridge the gap with a strap or towel.

3-Part Low Lunge

Part 1 – Start standing, then lower your hands to the ground, step your left foot back, and drop your left knee to the floor. Keep the right knee stacked above your right ankle.

Part 2 – Add a hamstring stretch by releasing the hands to the ground and shifting your hips back, straightening your front leg. Flex the front foot.

Part 3 – Add a quadriceps stretch by first returning to low lunge. Reach your left arm back, and grab the top of your left foot or ankle.

Repeat parts 1-3, stepping the right leg back.

Benefits
Low lunge stretches the hip flexors, which may become shortened over time from holding a squat position while playing defense. Hamstrings and quadriceps play key roles in jumping and sprinting on the court. Stretching keeps these muscles supple, allowing a player to move with more speed and finesse.

Modifications
For sensitive knees, cushion with a towel. For tight quadricep muscles, hook a towel around your back foot when performing part 3.

Build Strength

Warrior III with Airplane Leg

Start standing. Reach your arms straight overhead, palms facing in.

Hinge from the hips, bringing your torso parallel to the floor as you lift your left leg straight behind you with foot flexed, balancing on your right leg. Engage your abdominals to support the natural curve of your spine (avoid arching your low back).

Bring your lifted leg out to the side to add the airplane leg. Make sure to keep leg and flexed foot parallel to the ground.

Repeat with the opposite leg.

Benefits
This pose strengthens your glutes, thighs, upper back, and shoulders. This will allow you to move laterally with precision and speed, generate a more dynamic jump, and put up an unwavering block. Balancing on one foot works your body’s stabilizing muscles so you will have more control in the air.

Modifications
For help balancing, place your hands on a wall, or anything stable. For low-back sensitivity, lower your hands onto two blocks. For tight hamstrings, bend the standing knee.

Dolphin

From a kneeling position, place your forearms on the ground, palms flat. Shoulders are above your elbows, and forearms shoulder-width apart and in line with shoulders.

Tuck your toes, straightening your legs as you lift your hips towards the sky, flattening your back. Move your shoulders down your back away from your ears.

Benefits
This pose strengthens your shoulders so you can pack more punch in your serve and spike. It also improves stability in your shoulders that is important when digging or swinging.

Modifications
Place a block between your hands to keep the forearms shoulder-width distance. Hamstrings feeling tight? Bend those knees.

Plank Sets

From a kneeling position, place your hands on the ground. Keep your wrists stacked under your shoulders and step your feet back to the top of a push-up, or plank, position. Keep your thighs and abdominals engaged to support your back.

Roll to side plank by shifting your weight onto the left hand and the outside of the left foot.

Repeat side plank on the other side.

Benefits
Strengthens your abdominals, increasing control and explosiveness on the court.

Modifications
To reduce intensity, drop down to your knees in plank, and lower the bottom knee in side plank. For sensitive wrists, release down to your forearms.

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