Restorative Yoga for Tennis Players: 3 ways to start your practice!
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
As someone who began to train and run after a tennis ball at a very young age, yoga wasn’t exactly my speed when I first tried it (upon the suggestion of a Physical Therapist for its therapeutic benefits.) After getting over the initial shock of not feeling “good at it” not knowing if I was doing it the “right way” and coming back to it a few years later, the words “Power Yoga” appealed to me, and I bought my first book to practice from called “Journey into Power” by Baron Baptise. The strength required, the challenge in learning new postures along with a new way of staying fit (after having played tennis at the collegiate level) was a different kind of discipline that I was slowly becoming fond of. Having started yoga back up in the gym setting, I was increasingly seeking out more classes to take weekly between the tennis lessons I was teaching.
Of course, what appealed to me was all I knew at the time. Fast paced, sweat inducing and soreness guaranteed, because that’s what I was accustomed to as an elite athlete, having played my entire life up until that point where I jumped into teaching tennis, straight out of college. This baseline of battling fatigue and ignoring pain was unsustainable and it took me a few years to recognize that the yoga practice that I needed was the exact opposite of what I was attracted to.
“Gentle” and “alignment based” yoga became a part of my practice and I became to view these more subtle practices as a way to balance out what I was already doing on court and in the gym, allowing me to be active with more comfort not only in work but in play. Little by little I also began to appreciate “restorative yoga” for recovery, not just physically, but for its mental and meditative qualities that often pose quite the challenge for the less seasoned yoga practitioner.
On the outside looking in, it may seem as if it’s the faster paced and "vinyasa flow” classes that are more challenging, but oftentimes it’s the slower practices, the ones where we are not being asked to “do” much and let go that can be most challenging, especially if it’s not in our nature to slow down. Restorative postures are typically held for at least 2+ minutes depending on the shape, in order to give the body a chance to let go against its natural inclination to resist against the support being used (blankets, bolsters, etc.) and eventually let go, receiving a passive stretch or an opening that can feel delicious once you acquire the taste for it. Like anything else, some get it right away, and others develop the discipline (as was the case with myself) to become more quiet and still over time. Stillness, focus, and the ability to be with self are some of yoga’s greatest benefits in addition to the more obvious physical benefits that attract many to the practice in the first place.
How I currently use my “restorative yoga practice” (suggestions for practice if you would like to give it a try!)
1. Restorative Yoga as a “work break” midday: As a teacher of both tennis and yoga, I often teach tennis in the morning, and yoga in the afternoon/evening. If you’ve ever been a teacher or a worker that has to “give” and “be on” for hours, you know how draining this can be. On my best teaching days, I incorporate a restorative pose (usually after lunch & a hot shower) for about 20 minutes to reset, not only physically, but mentally so that I can start fresh for the second half of my day. This is something that can easily be replicated in a workspace (even if you only have 2-10 minutes!)
2. Restorative Yoga before bedtime: This slow and still practice makes it ideal for before bed, especially as part of creating ideal “sleep hygiene” where you are signaling the body that it’s time to slow down (& get off of your devices!) organically creating the relaxed atmosphere you want to take with you as you lull to sleep. Don’t be surprised if you accidentally fall asleep in your posture!
3. Restorative Yoga for when you don’t “feel like” practicing yoga: Maybe you know it’s good for you and that you should do it, maybe you’re tired and short on sleep, or just not necessarily feeling your best…Restorative Yoga is your friend! Start small, with one posture for a short period of time (2-5 minutes) with no pressure on yourself to do anything but experience sensation within the body, to experience your natural breath rhythm and give yourself the break that your body & mind deserve!
Want to try Restorative Yoga but you’re not sure how to get started??? Here’s an example of a restorative posture: Legs up the Chair pose that is ideal to relax the back:
In addition, Kalindi Dinoffer (OnCourt OffCourt & Foldable Yoga Mat) and I will be offering a Restorative Yoga Challenge that begins on April 19 through April 23rd (2021) that will be available for your practice on and after those dates, free of charge on both of our YouTube Channels and Instagram accounts:
Instagram: @playtennispracticeyoga: Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/playtennispracticeyoga/?hl=en
Please join our #yogaoncourtoffcourt community to participate in this challenge for the chance to win restorative yoga tools and to experience the benefits yoga has to offer!
Margit Bannon is both a USPTA Elite certified Tennis Pro & Registered Yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. She teaches tennis, yoga, and Yoga for Tennis at her business: Play Tennis. Practice Yoga.® located in Southwest Florida.