The Importance of Yoga for Basketball Players
If you're a basketball player, you know how important it is to be in peak physical condition. You need to have the strength to power through defenders, the agility to change directions quickly, and the endurance to keep going when everyone else is flagging.
What you may not realize is that flexibility is just as important as all of those other things. Believe it or not, yoga is one of the best ways to ensure injury prevention, increase flexibility, balance, focus and excel overall performance.
Yoga can help improve your flexibility, which is essential for basketball players. When you're flexible, you have a greater range of motion in your joints, which allows you to move more freely and easily on the court. You're also less likely to pull a muscle or suffer another type of injury if you fall or collide with another player.
If you're not flexible, your muscles and tendons are more likely to be strained because they're being stretched beyond their normal range of motion. That's why it's so important to stretch regularly, both before and after games and practices.
Balance and Coordination
Yoga can also help improve your balance and coordination. This is especially important for guard positions that require quick starts, stops, and changes of direction. Having good balance also helps you maintain control of the ball when you're dribbling and makes it easier to shoot when you're off-balance. Good coordination enables you to move more efficiently on the court and react quickly to what's happening around you.
Finally, yoga can help improve your breathing. Proper breathing helps improve circulation throughout your body, which delivers oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. It also helps your body process cellular byproducts that can build up from strenuous physical activity and lead to fatigue. If you don't breathe properly when playing basketball, you'll quickly run out of energy and won't be able to perform at your best. That's why it's important to focus on deep belly breathing when doing yoga poses designed for athletes.
Common Basketball Injuries
One of the most common injuries that basketball players endure are sprained ankles. Players tend to tear the soft tissue in their ankles by mis-stepping, jumping and landing poorly or on another player, and extending their ankle further than its range of motion. Yoga can help immensely with increasing the range of motion through different poses such as Downward Dog and Low Lunge.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
Injuries to the achilles are common because of the stress that comes with each game. The constant pressure can cause micro-tears which leads to inflammation. If left undiagnosed, this can cause greater injuries, limiting the overall range of motion.
Knee injuries such as torn ACL or meniscus are common because of the constant quick turns, jumping and landing poorly, and contact with other players. The knee joint is extremely vulnerable because it does not have a large cushion of muscle to fall back on.
How Yoga Helps Basketball Athletes
Basketball players need to be able to move their bodies in a wide range of motions—from jump shots and layups to defensive slides and pivots. However, the repetitive nature of the sport can lead to tightness in the Lower back, shoulders, and hamstrings. This not only limits the range of motion but can also lead to pain and stiffness. Practicing yoga regularly will help increase flexibility and range of motion, allowing movement to be more free on the court.
Yoga has multiple moses that focus on lengthening the hamstrings. Since these muscles are the powerhouse of basketball players, they tend to get the most tight. Forward Fold, Downward Dog, and Triangle are all poses that work on the tightness of hamstrings. Flexibility helps with overall performance, posture, and prevents injury, along with incorrect body alignment.
Cat-Cow, Sphinx, Rabbit, Crescent Lunge, and Child's Pose all target the lower back. These poses allow for flexion and extension with creating mobility at the same time. A basketball player takes a grandiose amount of impact with the jumps, blocks and dunks, there is potential for lower backs issues. This can lead to a slower pace on the court, lack of air while jumping, and overall a decrease in performance as a whole.
Wide legged standing forward bend is an excellent pose that is common in yoga to help open shoulders and create more flexibility. Constant dribbling, shooting and blocking are all movements that can cause shoulders to tighten up and may even inflict pain. Since yoga is a gentle exercise, athletes can focus on slowing down and holding certain poses for a longer period of time to get more out of the pose and reach a deeper level of flexibility.
Yoga uses asana (yoga postures) as a tool to provide focus and opportunity to shift or maintain brainwave patterns from stressed and anxious response to a slower response more meditative state also known as the zone.
Yoga creates an environment for low impact movement while stimulating the sympathetic nervous system (flight or flight) in postures and gives you the opportunity to practice breath and control of your body and minds response to staying in the meditative zone state.
A regular yoga practice can help improve flexibility, balance, coordination, mental game and breathing — all key areas for successful performance on the basketball court. If this is a desired goal, roll out the yoga mat and get to work!