Muscle-Building Yoga Poses To Boost Performance In These 3 Sports

Contributing writer By Roy Parvin
Contributing writer
Roy Parvin is an award-winning author and writer under the name "Yoga Matt." He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Bread Loaf Fellowship, and he is the recipient of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize.
Muscle-Building Yoga Poses

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If you're a sporty type, yoga can fine-tune that machine you call a body and turn you into a better-performing whole. The series of asanas listed concentrate on specific muscle groups and body areas used in particular sports.

Yoga is powerful stuff. A little goes a long way. I didn't include a breathing warm-up pose or savasana, but that's not an invitation to skip those segments. Yoga operates on an honor system.

Also, feel free to throw mountain pose or a forward bend into the mix for constructive rest. If you remember to use your breath as your guide, these sport-specific practices should take about 30 minutes. Insert a sport-specific routine once every two weeks into your yoga mix, and you won't believe the kind of good sport you'll turn into.

1. Running

Legs, hips, and back primarily. Don't forget to breathe—runners depend on it.

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Downward Dog

Downward Dog for Muscle Building

Image by Richard Sheppard

Start on all fours, hands positioned under your shoulders, hips, and knees at right angles. Tuck your toes. Pull your heels off the floor, which places your weight on your flexed toes. Press into your hands and start straightening your legs so you form an upside-down V.

Triangle Pose

Supported Triangle Pose

Image by Richard Sheppard

Start with your left foot at the base of a chair, toes pointing forward. Step wide with your right foot and align your right arch with your left heel. Maintain this nice heel-arch alignment, and imagine there's a wall behind you, keeping you plumb. With your straight back against the "wall," lower your left shoulder downward as if there's a hinge at your waist. The rest of your upper torso will follow.

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Leg Stretch

Leg Stretch

Image by Richard Sheppard

Lie on your back. In this stretch, you're essentially going to raise both legs up to 12 o'clock, then slowly lower them back down to the floor at 9 o'clock.

Reclining Pigeon Pose

Reclining Pigeon Pose

Image by Richard Sheppard

Position your right ankle over your left knee. Flex your right foot: It protects your knee. To go further, take your right hand through the opening your bent shin and thigh form, and reach with both arms to hold your left thigh. Repeat on the other leg.

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Legs Up the Wall for Savasana

Legs Up the Wall for Savasana

Image by Richard Sheppard

Make sure your lower back—your sacrum—is on the floor.

2. Cycling

Hamstrings, pelvis, and shoulders. Breathing's important in cycling, too. Spinning your wheels and going nowhere is OK if it's savasana.

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Sphinx

Sphinx Pose

Image by Richard Sheppard

Lie on your belly. Drag your hands back toward your body until your elbows are directly beneath your shoulders. Palms are on the floor. Lift your torso and head up while keeping your elbows on the floor. The tops of your feet should be flush against the floor, and don't curl your toes.

Cobbler's Pose With Forward Bend

Cobbler's Pose with Forward Bend

Image by Richard Sheppard

Sit on the floor and position the soles of your feet together, hips splayed out to each side. As the crown of your head reaches toward the ceiling, drop your shoulders down.

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Downward Dog

Downward Dog for Muscle Building

Image by Richard Sheppard

Start on all fours, hands positioned under your shoulders, hips, and knees at right angles. Tuck your toes. Pull your heels off the floor, which places your weight on your flexed toes. Press into your hands and start straightening your legs so you form an upside-down V.

Reclining Pigeon Pose

Reclining Pigeon Pose

Image by Richard Sheppard

Position your right ankle over your left knee. Flex your right foot: It protects your knee. To go further, take your right hand through the opening your bent shin and thigh form and reach with both arms to hold your left thigh. Repeat on the other leg.

3. Swimming

Shoulders, arms, back, and legs. We throw you in the deep end. Feel free to finish with legs up the wall—way more restful than the dead man's float.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Image by Richard Sheppard

Place your thumb on one nostril and your ring finger on the other. Block one nostril with your thumb and inhale through the other nostril. Then block that nostril with your ring finger and unblock the other nostril and breathe out and then in. Switch nostrils with your hand again. You'll get the hang of it. Basically, you're breathing out and in on one nostril, then out and in on the other. Do four cycles of this, nice and slow.

Staff Pose With Forward Bend

Staff Pose with Forward Bend

Image by Richard Sheppard

Sit on the floor, legs out in front of you. Lengthen your spine and reach with the crown of your head for the ceiling. You can take a block, squeeze it between your hands, and hold it out in front of you, arms straight and outstretched for a moment. Keep your arms straight, until your arms are next to your ears.

Locust

Locust Pose

Image by Richard Sheppard

Assume the same belly-to-floor position as the sphinx. Bring your arms back toward your feet and clasp your hands behind your back. With arms stretching back, see if you can raise them a little higher over your back while lifting your chest off the floor. Hold for a few yoga breaths and then lower yourself back down to the floor.

Downward Dog

Downward Dog for Muscle Building

Image by Richard Sheppard

Start on all fours, hands positioned under your shoulders, hips, and knees at right angles. Tuck your toes. Pull your heels off the floor, which places your weight on your flexed toes. Press into your hands and start straightening your legs so you form an upside-down V.

Child's Pose

Childs Pose

Image by Richard Sheppard

Spread your knees wide, sit back on your heels, and untuck your toes. Your torso leans forward like you're bowing down. Arms can be extended in forward in front of you, palms down on the floor.

Reprinted with permission from Yoga for the Inflexible Male: A How-To Guide by Yoga Matt copyright © 2019. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Richard Sheppard. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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