Much of the regular training that football players undergo does a lot to shorten their muscles. Yoga helps to balance this out, bringing much needed suppleness. Think how many times players have to stretch to connect with the ball to make that winning kick or prevent a goal going in. These quick movements can easily result in injury if muscle fibres are too tight.
As the team has a heavy training and playing schedule, before each class Ali finds out whether any players are struggling with injuries so she can factor this into the session. For the most part, classes lasting 45 minutes to an hour consist of poses that are designed to work the team all over, paying particular attention to the back and spine area that is often left out in other forms of training.
“Not many had tried yoga before I started with them. A couple had dabbled in it and most of their partners had tried it, but the idea was very new to them. Now each of them has their own favourite ‘Warrior’ position. Warrior poses are great for strengthening the legs and opening the hips. They’re also great for circulation and energising the whole body so they form a key part of our sessions and the guys love them.”
Overall the poses Ali teaches ensure that muscle strength is balanced with flexibility – imperative for injury avoidance and keeping the players on the field. Improved balance is another key aim and a core component of their all-round fitness.
But it goes further than just the physical. A large part of the game is about keeping your head on the pitch and shutting out the crowd around you. So as well as a group training session, the classes that Ali provides give each and every player a chance to practice keeping their focus. By paying attention to their breathing, the team learns to take their attention inward and shut out external stimulus. A must for keeping their cool and performing at their best.
Click here for more information on the benefits of yoga and how it could work for you (and your team!). To read more about the MK Don’s and how yoga’s helping them take a read of our press release.