Yoga & Rowing Article Yoga has become a popular training tool in many athletic environments today. Many enjoy yoga for the stretching qualities it brings to the neuromuscular, skeletal and muscular systems in the body. There is so much more yoga can bring to your athletic performance when applied properly. There are 3 main components of yoga and most athletes only focus on one. We’ll use this new forum in Rowing News to show you how to use the 3 main components of yoga to get the most from your boat as well as its’ healing qualities to restore and balance the body during recovery times. The 3 components of yoga that we focus on for athletes are 1) postures, 2) breathing exercises and 3) relaxation/meditation. The foundation of yoga is linking breath and movement. Many athletes lose their ability to link breath and movement in their regular training workouts let alone competitions. Science shows us rowing breaks down into 67% aerobic and 33% anaerobic workout metabolically. So, harnessing the core energies of the body is key to your speed and endurance. The core energies are located in the belly. Without your breath reaching the belly, you’ve only tapped into 2/3’rds of your body’s energetic potential. The techniques we’ll describe are available to everyone regardless of your physical range of motion. They can be used for warm-ups, cool-downs or simulating racing conditions in the mind and body without exposing your body to repetitive motion injuries. The purpose is to make rowing more enjoyable to the recreational rower and take the competitive rower to the next level. We offer you a yoga posture and yogic breathing technique that serves the rowing athlete. As we come in May, athletes are beginning to breakdown physically, mentally and emotionally whether they are aware of it or not. To restore balance in the low back and spine, we offer the following yoga posture. This will also open the upper chest which will allow more air to move into the lungs to strengthen the respiratory system. Yoga Posture: Bridge Posture. This is the full expression of the Bridge. Don’t expect your body to look like this initially. Coaches Tip: Use this for a warm-up by coming up and down with repetition. Inhale up and exhale down. Same as rowing, i.e.; inhale catch, exhale finish. It’s also great to have athletes’ hold this posture the length of time of the race to prepare the mind to stay relaxed and focused for 4-6 minutes. Keep your eyes closed and notice thoughts and feelings that move past your mind. Keep your attention focused on your breath rather than what you’re thinking. While in the Bridge, take your athletes thru a pre-race visualization of what the race should look like from start to finish so there are no surprises on race day. Basic Technique From your back, slide feet under your knees, palms turned down pressing into the floor, feet hip width apart; same as in boat or erg. Press into the floor and lift your hips slowly towards the sky. Shimmy your shoulder blades close together and clasp your hands together. Lift chest towards your face, roll weight onto your upper back and hold. To release, separate your hands and press palms down, slowly release to the ground and extend legs away. Close your eyes and receive the benefits of the posture. Benefits: Expands chest and lung capacity to inhale more efficiently than your opponent; aligns spine; great for lumbar spinal strength; opens belly (energy center). Precautions: Knee problems, weak low back (do more repetitions). If athletes can’t clasp the hands under body, please keep palms pressed down into the floor; don’t hyper-extend your elbow joint. Contraindications: Inflamed low back (do slow repetitions, don’t go fully into posture) Breathing Technique: 3-Part Breath. Actively inhaling through your nostrils into three parts of your abdomen (belly, ribs, chest) using a continuous breath through nostrils. Keep your mouth closed as much as you can. If you need to use your mouth during this exercise, only use it on the exhale. Use this breath continually during your rowing workout. Try to use this technique as much as possible, be patient with your cardiovascular and respiratory system. The inhalation and exhalation begins in the belly and low back and rises up the front and back of your body. The breathing is more profound in the front because we can see it. Coaching Tip: Invite your athlete to visualize filling a pitcher with water. Don’t breath into your chest until your abdomen is full. If this a problem for your athlete, please have your athlete fall asleep at night with their hands on the belly for a week or two. Make sure your seeing your belly rise into your hands as the breath rises under the ribs into the chest. The body remembers how to breathe like this. All young children and babies breathe this way. So your body will remember over that week or two as you dose off at night. Benefits: Calming, will give you 30% more energy than your opponent, more focused mind, introversion, withdrawal from distraction. Edward Harrold is a studio owner of Comfort Zone Yoga in Delaware, the originator of the Flexibility For Athletes® program and the Director for The Kripalu Institute For Extraordinary Living. He leads programs and workshops at colleges, universities and clubs. He has a series of released instructional DVD’s. www.comfortzoneyogacenter.com and www.mindandbodyworkout.net.