Flexibility Fridays: Improve Balance With Yoga

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Collegiate Player Doing Warrior 3

Every Friday during the month of February, Dana Santas, founder and director of Radius Yoga Conditioning (RYC), who has worked with more than 18 teams across the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and MLS, will guide you on how to improve your flexibility and improve your performance with yoga.

The ability to shift your center of gravity to accommodate and support your movements while staying balanced is essential in any sport. That's why balance training is an integral component in an athlete's well-rounded conditioning program.

Your brain and core muscles work together to maintain postural stability during all balancing movements. Sensors in the joints called proprioceptors help the brain sense the position of your limbs. Your brain then engages the appropriate muscles to maintain stability.

When thinking about balance and yoga, most people immediately envision a static, vertical and single-leg standing pose. Although that is effective, I like to have athletes work on dynamic balance in varying planes of movement, since that more closely resembles how they move in their sport.

The series I describe below is considered dynamic because of the flow from movement to movement, each synchronized with your breathing. Maintaining a connection between breathing and movement helps keep your head in the game, so focus on coordinating your respiration with your muscular effort as outlined in the instructions.

Working on balance improves integrated core strengthening, which plays an important role in the Dynamic Balancing Series described below. Stretching is also an inherent component of this yoga series. You'll benefit from leg stretches, as well as lower-body strengthening when in the Low Lunge and Warrior Three postures.

Dynamic Yoga Balancing Series How-To

Dynamic Yoga SeriesDynamic Yoga Series 1

Begin in Plank position with your wrists under your shoulders and your core engaged. Inhale as you shift your weight to the left side to assume Side Plank position. Lift your right arm straight up to the sky and lift your right leg toward the sky. Briefly hold position, exhale and return to Plank position. Inhale and repeat the movement to the right side. Briefly hold position, exhale and return to Plank position. Inhale. Exhale and bring your left leg forward into a Low Lunge with your hands on the ground on both sides of your front foot. Inhale and tighten your left quadriceps to straighten your front leg. Lift your right leg behind you and raise both arms overhead so your body is parallel to the ground in Warrior Three pose. Briefly hold position, then exhale and return to Low Lunge position. Inhale back into Plank. Exhale and perform Warrior Three on the opposite side. Exhale and return to Low Lunge position, then inhale and return to Plank.

Repeat this series three times. If you have trouble slowing your breath long enough to move through the postures in phases of respiration (inhalations and exhalations), try holding each position for one or two complete breaths.

Important Tips for Effectiveness and Safety:

  • Avoid wrist issues in Side Plank by keeping the shoulder aligned above the wrist, never past it
  • Consciously engage your low, deep abdominals by drawing your navel in toward your spine to help maintain your center of gravity
  • Don't let your bottom hip collapse in Side Plank
  • Find a gaze point on the floor during Warrior Three to help with balance and keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine

Dana Santas, E-RYT, ACSM-cPT, is the founder and director of Radius Yoga Conditioning (RYC), an international yoga training and consulting business offering customized sport- and athlete-specific yoga programs. Specializing in serving pro athletes, Santas has worked with more than 18 teams across the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and MLS. RYC is accessible to athletes, coaches and teams through numerous formats, including Skype/Facetime sessions and customized team training. Her work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, on MLB.com, the NHL Network, Fox Sports, WebMD, CNNRadio and elsewhere. For more information, visit radiusyoga.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock