Some athletes and volleyball clubs currently have a pause from their typical volleyball training and routine. This can be a great time to evaluate where you currently are physically, and where you want to be. It’s also an opportunity to pause, slow down, check in, and re-assess. Pivot, make changes, and evaluate what’s really working for you and what is not. Fortunately, practicing yoga is something that all athletes can do from anywhere, and there are so many benefits. Let’s take a look at why yoga is so beneficial for volleyball athletes, and how to implement it into your club training program.
Yoga is a series of poses and movements tied together by the breath. It is a mix of dynamic and static stretches, stability poses, balancing poses, strength building poses that if chosen appropriately, can do wonders for you as an athlete.
To break it down even further, yoga means to “yoke” (unite) the body to the breath. That’s it! So simple, right? All we have to do is move and breathe at the same time and we are practicing yoga.
Kalynn Evans, Owner of Yoga Athletex in Houston, Texas has seen first hand the results that yoga can produce for club level athletes. Yoga Athletex has been providing the strength + conditioning and yoga training for Houston Skyline Volleyball Club for the past 5 years. During this time, the club has seen less injury and more wins on the court. The club’s 15 Royal team that has been training with Yoga Athletex for the past 3 years won 15 Open at the 2019 USAV National Championships, with a couple of the athletes coming in for additional yoga sessions throughout the season.
“We love watching these girls apply the techniques they learn in our yoga and breathwork sessions and use it on the court and come back to us with their progress and what helped them “get the gold.” I’ll never forget, we had a yoga and meditation session right before they left for National’s about focus and visualizing the entire tournament from start to finish (winning). I had them visualize playing and winning each game. Noticing how they felt after each perfect play and each win” shares Evans.
Yoga increases performance and reduces potential injury, plain and simple.
It increases your body awareness, self-control, and focus. It teaches you how to be mindful and intentional with your movement on and off the court. Most importantly it helps increase your flexibility and mobility. Most athletes have some sort of limitation when it comes to mobility, or range of motion. If the range of motion is hindered, an athlete is not playing at the optimal level.
When you practice yoga, you are able to turn inward and notice things going on in your body, that you typically wouldn’t notice.
For example, if I am doing a shoulder stretch, I will start to notice the difference between my left and right shoulder mobility. Maybe one side is way less flexible than the other. Maybe I need to be focusing on that one side a bit more, so I don’t incur an injury over time. You can do this with every body part and slowly become hyper aware of what your body can do and what limitations it currently has. Then you can work on those limitations, to eliminate them, through proper yoga sequencing/corrective exercise.
It’s easier than you think. With yoga, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Similar to beginner volleyball, there is so much to learn, but you start with the fundamentals and grow from there. The best part about yoga is that it is a tool you can use now and forever. You can practice at home with just a mat, while you’re traveling for tournaments or in your college dorm room. The benefits are limitless!
For elite club athletes, practicing yoga 2x/week for 30 minutes will improve flexibility, stability, core, balance, range of motion and mindset.
Ankle mobility is important for all volleyball athletes, which helps with hip mobility to be able to get into a full squat position and explode up to full extension (for front row players) or to be able to push off forward/back and side to side while staying low for back row players. Our hip flexor muscles get overused and need a counter stretch, or they will become overactive and slowly shut down over time. In general, the goal for practicing yoga for volleyball athletes is to counter stretch all the muscles that are being overused and overactive for long periods of time, so we can create healthy bodies that will sustain us to continue to play the sport for many years.
There are certain poses that are great for different areas of the body, as well as different positions: Middle Blockers, Pin Attackers, Liberos and Setters.
Middle Blockers: Poses that focus on shoulder mobility and range of motion, thoracic spine mobility and posture are going to be crucial for you to stay injury free and increase the velocity of your arm swing.
Pin Attackers (Outside/Right Side): Poses that focus on noticing the difference between the right and left sides of the body and equalizing the two. Opposites tend to favor one side of the body being on one side of the court, and you work in the same plane of motion throughout practices and games. Working on identifying any imbalances from left to right side is key for injury prevention.
Liberos: The focus should be on hip, lower leg, ankle and hamstring flexibility to balance out all of the times you are in defense and ready position. Your legs need to recover and stretch, so you can continue to get into low positions for long periods of time.
Setters: You need to be physically active to get to every 2nd ball of each play and mentally tough to lead the team. Yoga poses should focus on shoulder mobility and thoracic spine mobility, since you are constantly rotating at the upper body to get under the ball and pushing it to your target area.
If you are interested in adding yoga to your routine visit yogaathletex.com and Register for Online Portal of Yoga for Volleyball Athletes by Position for only $39/month. Teams can watch the online videos before or after practice together, or they can each have access to it from anywhere and it can be recommended to the athlete’s to practice / watch the videos each week at home. All they need is a mat! The yoga program at Yoga Athletex is accessible, affordable and provides lifelong skills that are vital for sustainability.
Download the JVA Dig It App and follow the JVA on Instagram @jvavolleyball. Kalynn will be sharing a series of sample yoga workouts for volleyball athletes.
About the Author
Kalynn Evans (B.S., NASM-CPT, E-RYT 200, FMSC, XPT Coach) is the Owner of Yoga Athletex, LLC alongside her sister Patricia Bomar. She grew up playing volleyball; her mom and coach was a former college volleyball player at University of Houston and then a member of the US national team, so volleyball was instilled in her from a young age. Kalynn played club volleyball for 7 years at Club Texas in Houston. She played D1 college volleyball at SE Louisiana where she graduated with an accounting degree. Having some back and hip injuries throughout her volleyball career led Kalynn to practice yoga, and want to offer yoga to youth and adult athletes to prevent and rehabilitate injury. She completed her 200 RYT in 2013, completed Yin and Restorative Trainings in 2015 and 2016, FMS Cert 2016, and NASM-CPT in 2017 and XPT coaching certificate in 2018.
Kalynn’s Instagram: _restorewithme_
Yoga Athletex: @yogaathletex