How Yoga Can Improve Your Racquetball Game
Take your racquetball game to the next level.
There are a lot of great racquet-based sports in the world, and all of them feature quick bursts of movement, changes in direction, and the need for a high level of focus. Of these incredible sports, racquetball is arguably the fastest-paced and offers the best total body workout.
While the game and the workout provide their own rewards, it’s no secret that winning feels really good. If you’re just starting or want to improve your racquetball game, yoga could be the key.
By now, it’s common knowledge that stretching to warm up and cool down after a workout is an important step in any exercise routine. It helps keep tendons and ligaments flexible and helps prevent stiffness in your muscles.
Yoga takes stretching to a whole other level. There are poses in yoga that improve flexibility and balance as well as forcing the practitioner to improve their focus and breath control.
How many times have you seen a little kid twist their arms and legs into knots with seemingly no effort? How many times have you heard someone in their 40s groan as they stand up—especially if they’re getting up off of the ground?
One of the greatest benefits of yoga in sports is the way the sustained movements of the yoga keep tendons and ligaments elastic. As we age, those connections between our muscles and between our muscles and bones get more rigid. Yoga keeps those connectors from getting too tight.
Some people don’t see benefits from stretching because they just go through the motions. When engaging in yoga, sustaining the positions is just as important as getting into them. With regular practice, those stretches can go deeper, be sustained longer, and pay even better dividends in both maintaining and even increasing flexibility.
Many common positions in yoga find the practitioner on one leg or with one foot and one hand on the ground. While a beginner may use a wall to help stay up initially, as they grow more comfortable, many people find they can balance without assistance.
Many balancing positions, while offering the benefits of flexibility, also require an engaged core. Planking is a very popular ab workout. And where did it come from? Yoga!
Improving balance is a major part of the relationship between yoga and sports. Every player of every sport in the world benefits from having a great sense of balance and yoga is a great way to improve bodily awareness in that area.
The stereotypical image people hold of people that do yoga is of someone that talks constantly about their organic vegan diet and about how they like to get “centered” with yoga. While that image is definitely over-the-top and an exaggeration at best, there is something to be said for yoga’s ability to “center” a person.
As you get deep into a stretch, you may find that you relax areas of tension you weren’t aware of, which allows you to let go of the pressures of the day and focus only on your body and your breathing.
That release can also lead to an energized feeling as your body releases endorphins that make you feel positive about your workout and about yourself.
We don’t always think about how we breathe. The truth is, due to poor posture or accumulated bad habits, or any number of factors, many of us don’t breathe as well as we could. That seems like a strange thing to say, but it’s true.
The way you carry yourself can affect how much oxygen you get when you inhale. As you get deep into yoga positions, something you’ll find is that you start to breathe deeper and more efficiently. That deep breathing will then help you get even further into your stretch as you exhale.
The more you experience more efficient breathing while doing yoga, the more you can carry that efficiency into everyday life and especially into your athletic activities.
Improving Your Racquetball Game
Understanding some of the benefits of yoga is one thing, but how can they be applied to racquetball? Racquetball moves quickly. How could deep, sustained stretches help that?
Swinging a racquet over and over again at different angles and speeds during an intense racquetball game requires a huge range of motion. And not just in your arm and shoulder. There is rotational torque through your back and power coming from your legs. The flexibility afforded by yoga helps you outlast your opponent by keeping your body elastic from the first serve to the last point.
Balance is also very important in any racquet sport, but especially in the fast-moving world of racquetball. With the frequent changes in direction and pivots required in the game, maintaining balance can be the difference between a victory and a loss. The only time you want to be on the floor is if you dove there on purpose. Yoga helps with that.
The enclosed space of a racquetball court makes focus a high priority for players. The ball could come at you from just about any direction at just about any angle at very high speeds. If you aren’t focused, you’ll drop points faster than you can say “International Racquetball Tour.” Additionally, after particularly hard-fought points, your adrenaline will probably be way up. Knowing how to center yourself before the next rally starts will help you keep ahead of the game.
Finally, breath control is a major benefit of yoga for sports performance. Everyone knows the feeling of running out of breath. With more efficient breathing, you’re less likely to find yourself bent over in front of your opponent, struggling to recover and keep going.
Yoga for Racquet Sports
There are a few positions that are not only great racquetball but make for good yoga for tennis as well. Some are better suited to warm-ups and some to cool-downs, but each of these positions helps maximize the benefits of yoga for athletic performance and helps make your racquetball game improve exponentially.
Cat and Cow
These positions work together to primarily loosen up the spine and back muscles. You get down on all fours and alternate between arching your back up like a riled-up cat and allowing your core to drop toward the ground as you look upward like a cow lowing at the sky.
Cow Face Pose
This position works your rotator cuffs. To go into this pose, you’ll need something to hold with your hands. A resistance band or even your racquet can serve you well here. Take the top of your racquet in one hand and bring it down behind you. Put your other hand in the center of your back and use that hand to grab the racquet handle. When both hands are in position, relax your shoulder to get a good stretch in. Then switch hands.
In a traditional plank position, you remain with your face to the floor—both feet and both arms on the ground supporting your weight. A side plank changes that up. You balance on one side, essentially making a “T” shape with your arms. Your weight is balanced on one hand and one foot while you reach toward the ceiling with your other arm. As you get comfortable with your balance in this pose, you can move your non-weight-bearing leg out to touch the floor in front of you to open up your hip flexors. Then switch sides.
A great pose for focus and breath control, a chair pose is a standing position. You essentially move your hips back as though you were sitting in a chair as you extend your arms over your head, touching your palms together. The key to getting the most out of this pose is to keep your head in a straight line over your feet. You want to move your hips back. You don’t want to push your knees forward. As you grow more proficient at this pose, you can try to reach higher with your arms as you sit deeper with your hips.
Everyone has a different body. The poses listed above are generally useful, but you may find other poses work better to improve your game. Yoga for athletes is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Many of the same fitness clubs that have racquetball courts will also offer yoga classes. Take advantage of your membership to see what poses and stretches open your body and improve your on-court performance the best.
Engage Your Whole Body
Getting a satisfactory response to the question of how is yoga beneficial for a sports person requires more than a shrug and yoga for sports. Some poses and stretches bring benefits to a wide range of sports, but those may not be what you need.
To use yoga to improve your racquetball game, you need to understand how you use your body on the court. You need to find the connection between your breath, your mind, and your muscles. When you begin to find the balance between those factors through practice and perseverance, you’ll find your game has risen to a new level.
And you will probably have a few more wins under your belt. And winning is fun.