Tennis requires a lot of fast lunging, swinging and twisting on the court. Not to mention the demand for focus and a clear mind during matches. It’s usually is a one-sided sport, meaning one side of the body tends to be more developed than the other, and it’s the unequal development of the body can eventually lead to muscular misalignment resulting in pain in the back, hips, legs, and knees.
These yoga poses are the best for us tennis players as they focus on increasing mobility, muscular balance and balance in the shoulders, hips, and spine, which will help keep you feeling and playing better on the courts!
For the Cat/Cow Movement, start on your hands and knees. While inhaling, lift your chest and tailbone towards the ceiling, and while exhaling, arch your back, press through the shoulder blades and drop your head. Feel the muscles on your back, and take notice if one side feels tighter than the other. For warming up and stretching your back, do a few rounds of the Cat/Cow movement.
Make 6-8 slow rounds, then switch sides and repeat. Do this several times on each side.
Cow Face Pose
A great pose for stretching the outer hips and the shoulders and arms at the same time. Since this is an asymmetrical pose, you’ll be more able to feel the differences between the two sides, and modify your practice accordingly.
Start on your hands and knees, bring your right knee towards the hands, and take your right foot over the left knee. Your legs are crossed, and you can widen the feet so that you can slowly lower yourself between your feet. Sit on a block to make the pose easier on the knees. Take your right hand parallel to the floor, turn your thumb towards the floor and bend your arm behind your back. Take your left hand towards the ceiling, palm facing back, and bend the elbow to reach down.
If you cannot touch your hand, you can take a belt or a towel for more space. Hold for up to one minute, then switch sides and repeat. Do this several times on each side.
For the Pigeon Pose, start on hands and knees, and slide your right knee between your hands. Be mindful of the right knee, and if the knee feels stressed, bring the right ankle closer to the hip. Center yourself so that your weight is even. You can support the upper body with your hands, or lower yourself to your elbows, or even completely to the floor. The Pigeon Pose offers a deep hip opening position, stretching the quadriceps and hip flexors for the side of the leg which is pointed to the back. Hold for three minutes, then change sides and repeat. Do this several times on each side.
Revolved Triangle Pose
The Revolved Triangle stretches the spine, chest, and shoulders. It also strengthens and stretches the legs and can improve your balance.
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your left foot back. Leave your right foot facing forward, while you turn the left foot slightly outwards. Square the hips towards the front of the mat, and place your right hand on your right hip. While inhaling, bring the left hand up, and upon exhaling hinge from the hips, reach forward and place your left hand on the outside of your right leg (use a block if you need the extra length). Twist the upper body towards the right, keeping your right hand on your hip, or extending it towards the ceiling. Take 3-5 long breaths here, then change sides and repeat. Do this several times on each side.
The Warrior II Pose is great for strengthening the core and the legs, while also stretching the chest, hips, and shoulders.
Begin in Tadasana, and take a big step back with one leg. Turn the back foot so the it is perpendicular to your front foot, raise your arms to shoulder-level, parallel to the floor, palms of your hands facing down. While exhaling, bend the front knee and bring it over the ankle. If needed, move the toes of the front foot so that your knee and toes are pointing in the same direction. Open your shoulders, keep your body centered, both feet active and feel the strength of a warrior for 3-5 breaths, then change sides and repeat. Do this several times on each side.
The Tree Pose develops balance while opening and stretching the hips.
Put all your weight on one leg, and lift up the other foot to either lean on your inner thigh, or lower on your shin. Bring your palms together in front of the chest, slowly raise your arms above your head. Keep the arms shoulder-width apart or wider, if this feels better for your shoulders. Stay for 5-10 slow breaths, and enjoy the focused balance! Repeat on the other leg. Do this several times on each leg.