Tennis requires a lot of quick moving and stopping, arm-swinging and body-twisting on the court, all while demanding mental focus and clarity. Tennis is also a one-sided sport, where a player’s dominant side develops faster and stronger than the other. This imbalance can eventually lead to muscular misalignment resulting in pain in the hips, legs and knees, shoulders and back, and even the neck.
These yoga poses are the best for us tennis players as they help increase our mobility, muscular balance and balance through our shoulders, hips, and spine. And this will help keep us feeling and playing better on the courts!
The Cat/Cow Pose is made up of two movements which flow together and gently stretches the spine and strengthens the abdominal muscles. To do this pose, get down on your hands and knees with your knees/shins and arms shoulder-width apart, and fingers pointing forward. Then:
- inhale slowly while lifting your head and looking up at the ceiling and arching your back, widening your shoulders as you press your stomach toward the floor.
- exhale slowly while lowering your head as you pull your stomach into your spine, and round your back toward the ceiling like a cat.
Do 6 – 8 slow reps.
Cow Face Pose
This is a great pose for stretching the shoulders, arms and hips, all at the same time. In this pose, you’ll be able to really feel the differences between your dominant and non-dominant sides. To do this:
- begin seated on your mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Bring your knees up to your chest, then slide your left leg under your right knee and stack your right knee on top of your left knee. Gently shift your weight from side to side until your bum is sitting evenly on the floor.
- take your left hand and turn your thumb towards the floor, then bend your arm behind your back. Raise your right hand up towards the ceiling, palm facing back, and then bend your elbow and reach down your back and the fingers of both hands.
If your hands can’t touch, you can use a towel (in the raised hand) for more space. Hold this pose for about one minute, then go slowly unwind yourself and go back to the starting pose, and do the other side. Do this several times on each side.
The Pigeon Pose is a great pose for tennis players as we have a tendency to get tight in the hips. This pose really opens the hips and stretches the quads and hip flexors. To do it:
- start in the downward facing dog pose, and slide your right knee forward to your hands. Bend your knee to the right and place on the floor, and let your body down, keeping your back leg straight.
- center yourself so that your weight is even. You can support your upper body with your hands, or lower yourself down to your elbows. you can even go completely to the floor.
Hold for about three minutes, then change sides and repeat. Do this several times on each side.
Revolved Triangle Pose
The Revolved Triangle Pose is a great stretch for the spine, shoulders and chest. It also stretches and strengthens the legs, improving your balance. To do this pose:
- start with the Open Triangle pose, then lift your torso slightly and bend to your right, and place your left palm on your mat outside your right foot.
- inhale slowly while raising your right arm straight up, stacking your shoulders, and engaging your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine.
- hold this position for five deep breaths, then place both hands on either side on your front foot, and press back to Downward Facing Dog.
- Do this pose on your other side and hold for an additional five breaths, before stepping back to Downward Facing Dog.
Do this pose several times, alternating on each side.
The Warrior II Pose is great for strengthening the core and the legs, while also stretching the chest, hips, and shoulders. To begin:
- stand up straight with your feet together and your arms down at your side, palms facing out.
- take a big step back with one leg. Turn your back foot so that it is perpendicular to your front foot.
- keeping your arms straight, raise them to shoulder-level, parallel to the floor, with the palms of your hands facing down.
- while exhaling, bend your front knee so that it is over your ankle. (If needed, move the toes of your front foot so that your knee and toes are pointing in the same direction.)
- Open your shoulders while keeping your body centered.
Hold for 3 – 5 deep breaths, then change sides and repeat. Do this several times on each side.
The Tree Pose is excellent for tennis players, as it helps develop balance while opening and stretching the hips. To do this:
- stand with all of your weight on one leg, and lift your other foot up to rest on your inner thigh (or if you need, a little lower on your shin.)
- bring your palms together in front of your chest, and slowly raise your arms above your head, keeping your palms together. (If this is too uncomfortable for your shoulders, you can raise them shoulder width apart or wider.)
Hold this pose for 5 – 10 slow breaths, slowly bring down your arms and leg and go back the original position, and repeat on the other leg. Do this several times on each leg.