Yoga Poses for Pickleball
Pretty much everyone knows the benefits of yoga – increased strength, flexibility, endurance, agility, and balance – but not everyone knows that yoga can specifically benefit athletes like pickleballers.
Pickleball may be relatively low impact, but as a sport with repetitive movements, it still puts strain on the body that can lead to injuries. Unlike a lot of sports, pickleball demands more from a player’s dominant side – their paddle hand side – resulting in repetitive misalignment that can put uneven wear and tear on that side of the body. Here are some pickleball specific yoga poses that can help strengthen arms, backs, and shoulders, even out hips, and lengthen both sides of the body evenly helping to avoid injury, recover from the strain of court time more quickly, and make your game more powerful.
1 – Downward Facing Dog
Benefits: This pose strengthens and opens the shoulders, upper back, arms, and wrists strained by repetitive paddle movement, while stretching the hamstrings and calves after hours spent bending your legs on the court.
How to: Start on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders. Press down on both hands and spread your fingers evenly for balance. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees away from the ground, keeping them slightly bent. Lift your buttocks toward the ceiling. Lengthen your legs, placing your heels on the ground if you’re able, and firm your shoulders, broadening them away from each other. If one side of your body feels longer than the other, press your weight into the shorter side. Hold your head steady between your shoulders – don’t let it hang to the floor. Hold for as long as comfortable.
2 – Cow Face Pose
Benefits: This pose loosens tight rotator cuff muscles caused by repetitive service and forehand motions, and also opens muscles around the hip joints that may be shortened by running around the pickleball court.
How to: Sit on the ground with knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Let your knees fall toward the ground. Place a strap over your left shoulder so it hangs midway down your back. Bend your right arm behind you with the forearm falling into the hollow of your lower back. Grasp the strap with your right hand, making sure the other end of it stays on your shoulder. Stretch your left arm up to the sky, palm forward. Bend the left elbow and grasp the strap that’s on your shoulder. Inch the hands toward each other along the strap as far as you can. If you are able to clasp hands without straining, drop the strap. Draw your navel toward your spine and try not to round the lower back. Hold for as long as comfortable then switch sides.
3 – Eagle
Benefits: This pose helps improve balance and stability for quickness on the court, strengthens ankles and calves worn out from fancy footwork, and opens up the shoulders, upper back, thighs, and hips allowing for more ease of movement while lunging for pickleballs.
To do: Stand with your feet hip-width apart then hug your right knee into your chest. Bend your left knee and cross your right leg around your left leg, hooking your right foot on either side of your left leg. Wrap your right arm under your left arm. Sit down as much as you can and lift up through the arms to stay balanced. Hold for as long as comfortable, then unwind and repeat on the other side.
4 – Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Benefits: Promotes spinal flexibility, power, and strength by opening the upper body, which allows players to hit the ball harder. Twisting moves also correct the imbalance between the right and left sides of the body, relieving stress placed on a player’s dominant paddle side.
To do: Sit with both legs extended in front of you and avoid rounding your lower back. Bend your right knee and put your foot on the ground. Step the right foot over the left thigh, placing it on the ground outside the left quadriceps. Lift the spine and reach your left arm up to the ceiling. Exhale and twist to the right, rotating your navel toward your inner right thigh. Place your right hand on the floor behind your buttocks. Wrap your left elbow around the outside of your right knee. Keep the majority of your body weight on your tailbone, not your stabilizing hand. Look over your right shoulder. Press the elbow into the knee to activate the muscles that power your forehand. Hold for as long as comfortable and switch sides.
5 – Triangle Pose
Benefits: Stretches the hips, groin, chest, and shoulders to increase ease of movement and range of motion on the court. It also strengthens knees, thighs, and ankles to increase speed of foot work on the court.
How to: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width. Turn your right foot 90 degrees so your toes point toward the top of the mat. Align the center of your right kneecap with the center of your right ankle. Pivot your left foot inwards slightly so your toes are at a 45-degree angle. Raise your arms shoulder height to your sides, parallel to the floor. Breathe in, and as you exhale reach through your right hand in the same direction your right foot is pointed. Shift your left hip back and fold over at your right hip. Keep your left leg engaged and press the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rest your right hand on your outer shin or ankle and stretch your left arm toward the ceiling.
Keeping your head in a neutral position, hold for as long as comfortable. To disengage from the pose, inhale and press firmly through your left heel while lifting your torso. Lower your arms, turn to the left, reverse the position of your feet, and repeat on the opposite side.
6 – Chair Pose
Benefits: Stretches shoulders and chest, strengthens calves, ankles, and thighs, and reduces flat feet – something you definitely don’t want on the court.
How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms straight out from your shoulders, keeping shoulders back and down. Exhale and lower into the pose by pushing your hips back and bending your knees as though you are sitting in a chair. Draw abs in tight. Hold your position for as long as is comfortable.
Now get back on the courts feeling fresh, relaxed, stretched, and more powerful. Happy pickleballing!