5 ways yoga can improve your tennis game
Simona Halep (above), Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova (below), Ana Ivanovic, and Andy Murray have all hopped aboard the yoga trend to complement their training, but should you too? We spoke to Jessica Mahler, a 500-hour registered yoga teacher, on how the practice can benefit tennis players both on and off the court. Here are Mahler’s top five reasons on how investigating the poses of the ancient tradition can positively affect your game come match time.
1. Increases Flexibility
Yoga has long been heralded for its effects on one’s movement, and exactly how is not completely understood. The effects are undeniable however; yoga can help you move more freely. Committing to a regular practice is a great way to combat and avoid stiff muscles, which could have negative effects on your game. Keeping your body healthy and agile by incorporating a few minutes each day to stretch in your favorite poses will help you to execute your groundstrokes with greater ease.
Stretching helps to increase your awareness, both internally and outside your body. Not only will you be able to move more freely, but you’ll also find you have more focus when it comes to an unexpected sprint. Whether your opponent sends a lob or drop shot your way, you’ll be able to move fast and with precision to hit the ball back (and hopefully score the point!). See Novak Djokovic below.
3. Relieves Nerves and Anxiety Before Matches
When stressed, there is a natural tendency for the body to contract, tightening and drawing everything inward as a protection method. This can cause tension, which, if not dealt with properly, can physically manifest itself in muscles creating knots and a general sense of discomfort. Yoga, whether through a specific pose or a specially designed/crafted sequence, has the power to target specific areas, elongating muscles and enabling their elasticity, improving stress-related nervous system imbalances. The more you stretch, the looser you’ll feel, the less likely you’ll stress over an upcoming game.
4. Enables a Better Night’s Sleep
In 2012 researchers at Harvard Medical School reported that engaging in a regular yoga practice can help improve sleep for those suffering from insomnia. Though there are many causes for restless nights, an overworked, nervous mind can stand in the way rejuvenating slumber. When the body feels relaxed and limber, you’re less likely to feel anxious and therefore less likely to think or obsess over how your anticipated match will unfold, thus leading you to a more peaceful/restful night before the big game.
5. Become a Better Sport
Incorporating yoga into your fitness repertoire can positively affect how you interact with your challengers. How you behave with other players is just as important as keeping your body in shape and practicing your game. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that practicing yoga leads to higher levels of the chemical that regulates nerve activity (gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA), and positively impacts mood and anxiety. With a heightened awareness, a more relaxed state of mind, and a sunny disposition, you’ll likely be a happier, more humble player no matter if you win or lose, and your opponents will admire and respect playing with someone with such a modest demeanor.