Tailoring a Yoga Program to Your Specific Fitness and Sports Needs

You can easily custom-tailor a yoga program to meet your specific needs. As an overall recommendation, be sure to include stretching before and after your physical activity. Try to include stretches that address the entire body. You can choose from among the yoga exercises provided in "A Complete Yoga Practice Session for Men." For instance, performing a round of Sun Salutations will provide a stretch for the entire body. You could also choose a complete stretching program by choosing to perform one yoga exercise from each of the major categories of yoga postures—for instance, you could choose one forward bending exercise from among Standing Forward Bend (Fig. YPS.ld, page 116), Seated Forward Bend

(Fig. YPS.6, page 125), or Head-to-Knee Pose (Fig. YPS.7, page 126); one backward bending exercise from among Cobra Pose (Fig. YPS.8, page 127), Bow Pose (Fig. YPS.9, page 129), or Bridge Pose (Fig. YPS.11, page 131); one twisting exercise, such as Seated Spinal Twist (Fig. YPS.10, page 124); and one inversion, such as Downward-Facing Dog (Fig. YPS.1j, page 118) or Shoulderstand (Fig. YPS.12, page 132). To provide as varied a program as possible, try alternating the poses you choose. For instance, if you choose to do Cobra Pose as your backbend exercise one day, try to do Bridge or Bow Pose as an alternative the next time you work out.

To hone in more precisely on your particular sport, you might also want to choose some yoga exercises that help to stretch and strengthen certain body parts—in particular, the ones that relate most specifically to your particular sport. For example, for tennis you might want to choose yoga postures such as Triangle Pose (Fig. YPS.4a and b, page 123) and Eagle Pose (Fig. 14.2, page 186) that help to open and rotate the arm and shoulder. For running, you may want to choose poses that help to strengthen and tone the legs, such as Tree Pose (Fig. YPS5a, b, and c, page 124); or relax the hamstrings, such as Standing Forward Bend (Fig. YPS.1d, page 116) or Seated Forward Bend (Fig. YPS.6, page 125). For rowing, you might want to choose poses that help strengthen and stretch the back, such as Bow Pose (Fig. YPS.9, page 129). You can also incorporate poses that help work body parts that are neglected in your particular sports activity. For instance, if you're a hiker, you might want to do some poses that emphasize the arms, shoulders, and upper body, such as Bridge Pose (Fig. YPS.11, page 131), or Shoulderstand (Fig. YPS.12, page 122).

It's important to help your body to integrate the benefits that you're achieving by your physical activity and to heal and restore itself. So be sure to include some restorative yoga poses in your program. Corpse Pose (Fig. YPS.3, page 122) and Legs-up-the Wall Pose (Fig. 13.3, page 164) are examples of excellent restorative postures.

Finally, yoga can help you perform and recover from your athletic fitness activities with more than just its collection of asanas, or physical exercise postures. Proper diet, breathing exercises, and a meditation practice can all help you go that extra distance in your chosen activity. To begin to incorporate the full range of yoga tools into your fitness and wellness practice, see Chapter 16, which discusses the yoga lifestyle.

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