yoga for young athletesBy Faye Martins

How can yoga help young athletes? The American Heart Association recommends that all kids ages two and over participate in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity physical activity every day. Children enjoy physical activity, and many get involved in competitive sports, but more and more, parents and whole families are coming to see the value of cooperative activities. Yoga helps children increase balance and body awareness, and relieves social pressure from trying to “win.”

Yoga for young athletes offers special benefits and challenges for the still-growing body. Yoga improves concentration and can even reduce injuries, so time spent in practice is worth it for even the most competitive child. In an article in the Denver Post, one high school Yoga teacher mentions special benefits for young boys in Yoga, saying “

[They] are strong, but extremely inflexible… boys grow so fast in this period [that] a lot of them have growing pains, and their hips are really tight.”

Teenage girls have other challenges. According to the Practice Journal of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, over 25,000 middle school and high school female athletes and 13,000 female college athletes will experience Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries. This ligament is located in the middle of the knee, acting as the primary stabilizer of the tibia and knee. ACL tears most often happen when the athlete tries to twist, pivot, cut, or land a jump, placing too much force on the ACL. ACL injuries are often treated with surgery followed by a long rehabilitation period. Some of these high school athletes never fully recover after surgery and give up their sport; by continuing to play, about six percent suffer injury to the other knee. An ACL tear history makes women five times more likely to develop arthritis in the knees before their 30s, and they can also suffer significant bone-mineral density loss in the tibia.

Yoga postures (asanas) for these young athletes, focuses on hip stretcher asanas for the boys, like Virabhadrasana I or Warrior Pose I. For girls, practice should focus on creating a soft stretch rather than a hard one in the backs of extended knees and to engage quadriceps and hamstrings for knee stability, rather than hyperextending. Regular practice offers measurable benefits and injury reduction for these adolescents.

Many studios are now offering Yoga classes for young athletes, some as young as seven. The many preventative health benefits to these young people can last a lifetime.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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