Yoga for Soccer Players: Benefits and Tips
Over the last decade, yoga has become increasingly popular among many athletes, including soccer players.
It’s a low-impact exercise that can improve flexibility, strength, and balance, all of which are important for soccer players.
Additionally, yoga can help reduce the risk of injury and aid in recovery after a game or practice.
While yoga is obviously not a substitute for traditional soccer training, it can be beneficial to add to a player’s routine.
In fact, I can tell you that, as a 39 year-old guy, it has done wonders to my body. I play men’s league twice a week and run probably another 15 miles per week on my own so I’m fairly active. There’s a lot of pounding on the pavement which can affect my knees and back. Implementing yoga into my overall fitness routine has been a game changer!
It was embarrassing at first but once you get past the first class, the rest is a breeze. There’s no judgment so you are doing it at your own pace. And, you’ll feel rejuvenated after every class.
As Nike once said, “Just do it.” Here’s why…
Benefits of Yoga for Soccer Players
Soccer requires a lot of quick burst movements including running, jumping, and cutting. This can often lead to muscles tightening up and a limited range of motion.
Yoga can help loosen up those tight muscles and increase flexibility, making it easier for players to move on the field.
Poses like Downward-Facing Dog, Warrior I, and Pigeon can be especially helpful in improving flexibility in the legs, hips, and back.
Increased Strength and Endurance
Many yoga poses require holding the body in challenging positions. This can help build strength in the major muscle groups.
Additionally, the breathing techniques used in yoga can help improve lung capacity and endurance. And, it can also aid in various stressful situations during training and games.
Enhanced Balance and Coordination
Many yoga poses require balance and focus, which can help improve overall balance and coordination.
Yoga can help improve proprioception, or the body’s ability to sense its position in space.
Poses like Tree, Eagle, and Warrior III can be especially helpful in improving balance and coordination for soccer players.
Yoga Poses for Soccer Players
At this point of the article, I hope you realize the benefits of yoga for soccer players. Here are three yoga poses that can help players enhance their performance on the field.
Downward-Facing Dog is a great yoga pose for soccer players because it strengthens the arms, shoulders, and legs while actively stretching the hamstrings and calves.
To perform this pose, start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
Exhale as you lift your hips up and back, straightening your arms and legs as much as possible.
Hold the pose for five breaths, then release.
Warrior II Pose
Warrior II Pose is another excellent yoga pose for soccer players because it strengthens the legs, hips, and core while improving balance and concentration.
To perform this pose, start in Mountain Pose with your feet hip-distance apart. Step your left foot back about three feet and turn your left foot out to a 90-degree angle.
Bend your right knee and extend your arms out to the sides, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
Hold the pose for five breaths, then switch sides.
Tree Pose is a balancing pose that can help soccer players improve their focus and concentration on the field.
To perform this pose, start in Mountain Pose with your feet hip-distance apart. Shift your weight onto your left foot and lift your right foot off the ground.
Now, place the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh or calf, avoiding the knee.
Press your hands together in front of your heart and hold the pose for five breaths, then switch sides.
Breathing Techniques for Soccer Players
Yoga offers several breathing techniques that can help soccer players improve their performance on the field. Here they are…
Ujjayi breathing is a technique that involves breathing in and out through the nose while constricting the back of the throat.
This creates a hissing sound that can help soccer players synchronize their breath with their movements. Ujjayi breathing can also help players stay calm and focused during high-pressure situations on the field.
Kapalbhati breathing is a technique that involves rapid, forceful exhalations through the nose while keeping the inhalations passive.
This technique can help soccer players improve their lung capacity and endurance by increasing the amount of oxygen they can take in and expel from their lungs.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a technique that involves inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other.
This technique can help soccer players balance their energy levels and calm their minds, which can be especially useful during halftime or after a game.
By incorporating these breathing techniques into their training regimen, soccer players can improve their cardiovascular endurance, manage their breathing more effectively, and stay calm and focused during high-pressure situations on the field.
Injury Prevention and Recovery
Reduced Risk of Injury
By improving flexibility, addressing muscle imbalances, and strengthening movement patterns, yoga can help players reduce their risk of injury.
In fact, a 2020 study on a group of soccer players found that those who practiced yoga had a lower risk of injury compared to those who did not.
In addition, yoga can help players develop better body awareness, which can help them avoid injuries caused by overuse or poor technique. Being nimble while playing can help avoid many falls that result in aching injuries.
By learning how to move their bodies more efficiently and with proper alignment, players can reduce the strain on their joints and muscles, decreasing their risk of injury.
Faster Recovery from Injuries
By fighting inflammation and increasing oxygen flow, yoga can help speed up the healing process as a result of grueling games.
Yoga poses can be modified to accommodate different injuries, making it a useful tool for players who need to work around an injury.
For example, players with a hamstring injury can modify poses to avoid putting too much strain on the affected area while still maintaining their flexibility and strength.
Other Helpful Activities to Consider
While we are advocates for adding yoga to a soccer player’s training routine, it is not the only activity that can benefit them. Here are a few other activities to consider:
Strength training can help soccer players build muscle and improve their power and speed on the field.
Exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts can help players develop the lower body strength they need to run faster, jump higher, and change direction more quickly.
Upper body exercises like bench presses and pull-ups can help players improve their ability to shield the ball and win headers.
Plyometric exercises involve explosive movements like jumps, hops, and bounds.
These exercises can help soccer players develop the explosive power they need to accelerate quickly and change direction suddenly.
Plyometrics can also help players improve their jumping ability, which can be useful for winning headers and scoring goals.
Soccer is a sport that requires a lot of running, so it’s important for players to have good cardiovascular fitness.
Activities like running, cycling, and swimming can help players improve their endurance and stamina.
Additionally, interval training, which involves alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise, can be particularly effective for improving aerobic fitness.
Soccer Players Who Implement(ed) Yoga into Their Lives
Some famous soccer players who also actively do yoga and meditation are:
- Lionel Messi
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- Erling Haaland
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Ryan Giggs
- David Silva
- John Terry
- David Beckham
- Roy Keane
- Gareth Bale
- Fabian Delph
These players prioritize their body and mind over anything else. These are the driving force to their overall success on and off the soccer field.
Soccer players who consistently practice yoga typically extend their playing career. It’s not easy to think about this in a player’s 20s but in their 30s is when it is often considered.
Yoga is a great way for soccer players to improve their flexibility, balance, and mental focus. It can also help alleviate stress and reduce the risk of injury.
The benefits of yoga for soccer players have been backed up by scientific studies, which have shown improvements in speed, cardiovascular endurance, and other key areas.
By incorporating yoga into their routine, players can improve their overall performance and reduce the risk of injury.
At the same time, it is great for a player’s mentality. By calming the mind, players are able to focus more on the field.
Yoga is a practice. As such, it should not be a one-and-done activity. Regular yoga practice at least once a week can have lasting effects.
So, let’s get out of your comfort zone and hit up a yoga studio!