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10 Yoga Poses for Soccer Players June 21, 2010
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Lisa B. Minn, PT About the Author
Lisa B. Minn, PT

10 Yoga Poses for Soccer Players  

My last post was all about the World Cup and the amazing athleticism of it’s athletes. Given the amount of running, sprinting and kicking that soccer players do, most of them would benefit from an asana program that emphasizes improving flexibility of the legs. John Gallucci Jr, PT, is the medical coordinator for Major League Soccer and in the current issue of PT in Motion magazine, he says "Usually soccer players have very, very tight adductors and tight hip flexors. One of our most important goals in the league is to improve players' flexibility in those two areas. We believe that if we can get more elasticity in the tissues, we can prevent more of the groin and hip injuries that are common to these athletes."

But not only do soccer players tend to have tight muscles, they can also have significant asymmetries as explained by Ara Uebelhor Knepp, PT, DPT, CSCS in the same article. "Soccer is a lopsided sport. Most of the guys are 80% one leg dominant. So most of the time they are kicking with one leg and planting with the other," Knepp says. "They use their hip flexor and quads on one leg and a lot of glutes and hamstring on the planting leg. This causes many issues with both the hip and the spine."

The following yoga postures will improve flexibility of the leg muscles, especially the hip flexors and hamstrings:

1. Down Dog
2. High Lunge
3. Warrior II
4. Warrior I
5.Warrior III

Hold each Lunge or Warrior pose with the dominant leg back, stretching the hip flexors for about 6 slow, steady breaths. (This should be equivalent to at least 30 seconds). When the dominant leg is forward, hold for about 3 breaths (at least 15 seconds). There are several variations that can enhance the the above poses. For example, High Lunge with a Twist: place the opposite elbow on the forward knee, palms together and open the heart toward the side of the forward leg. Such variations provide multi-planar motion, critical for pivoting/cutting sports like soccer.

6. Seated Straddle: This is great stretch for the inner thigh muscles. Most athletes with tight hamstrings will need to sit on the edge of folded blankets or towels in order to keep the back strait.

7. Gate Pose: This is a good pose for the hamstrings and adductors of the extended leg and the quadratus lumborum on the kneeling side.

8. Hand-Foot/3-Way Strap Pose: For this posture, hold the planting leg (non-dominant side) forward/up for 6 breaths and the dominant side for 3 breaths. This pose can also be done in a standing position, which is a challenging pose, requiring strength, flexibility and balance... great for any athlete!

9. Pigeon: This posture stretches the outer hip of the front leg and the hip flexors of the back leg. Again, if the hip flexors and quads are tighter in the dominant leg, spend more time with that leg extended back.

In addition to improving flexibility, yoga can also be restorative. Doing relaxed, supported postures is a great way to allow the body to recover from the intense workouts of both professional and recreational players. All yoga sessions for athletes should include at least one long, restorative posture. During peak training or competitive periods, a whole session of nothing but restorative yoga can help the body recover from workouts and to stay healthy and injury-free. A favorite restorative pose for releasing the inner thighs:

10. Reclined Butterfly

These are postures that can benefit anyone, from a professional soccer player to a sedentary couch potato (especially one busy rooting for the pros). If you are new to yoga, get a skilled teacher to instruct you in order to make the most of your experience. And if you are injured, see a physical therapist who can evaluate and guide you toward the safest and most effective stretches.

Go team!  

Lisa Minn

Lisa Minn is a licensed physical therapist and yoga enthusiast.  She has been incorporating aspects of Yoga and Pilates into her physical therapy practice since 2001 and became a certified yoga instructor in 2004.  Her experience ranges from working with athletes at West Point and Georgetown to instructing elderly and wheelchair-bound clients in the fundamentals of Hatha Yoga.  Lisa has conducted several lectures and workshops across the US, as well as in Honduras and Peru, where she volunteered her services.  She currently resides and practices in Northern California.  This and other articles by Lisa can be found at
The Pragmatic Yogi.

The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.


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