In 1996, at six months old, my oldest son picked up his first baseball bat and hasn’t put it down since. Just as I fell in love with yoga, he fell in love with baseball.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010. As I sat there observing the closing remarks pep talk at a local university youth baseball clinic, I bravely decided to email the head baseball coach to discuss offering yoga to the team. Typically, that would have me shaking in my boots! But not this time. I knew baseball from spending years at the field with my son and I certainly knew how to teach yoga and mindfulness. After he agreed to meet with me, I spent hours creating a handout listing the specific benefits of Yoga for Baseball Players. After a ten-minute conversation, I got the gig!
Knowledge and communication are of the utmost importance in order for athletes and those who support them to understand the sport specific benefits for creating a sustainable practice. The coach, youth athletes, and parents need to understand the ‘why’ of what they are doing, and so do you!
TOP 4 BENEFITS OF YOGA & MINDFULNESS FOR YOUTH ATHLETES
- Breath Awareness
“Better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance.” ~Mindy Solkin of The Running Center It is important for an athlete to utilize the breath in a functional way relevant to the action taking place in the body. Inhaling when the muscles are expanding allows space for air, oxygenating the brain, blood and muscles. Exhaling while muscles are contracting forces out stale air providing extra power and propulsion.
- Injury Prevention
Anyone that has attended a training, workshop or class with me can tell you my number one rule is “Yoga should never hurt.” This is never truer than when working with youth athletes. Teaching proper alignment is imperative for a sustainable physical practice and should support the activity. Clear, simple alignment instructions promotes proper body mechanics and is believed to aid in injury prevention, improve balance, flexibility, range of motion, strength and stability.
- Reduces Anxiety
Have you ever observed (or participated in) an athletic event where the outcome was affected by the participants’ state of mind? A track meet where the runner gives up because he falls behind? A softball pitcher who is rattled by the dugout banter? A swimmer who is frazzled by a false start? Having a yoga and mindfulness practice allows a youth athlete to create the healthy habit of becoming a witness to the present moment, then choose a productive tool, such as a breathing technique, for the best possible desired outcome.
No matter why you may be invited to teach a yoga & mindfulness class to youth athletes, one of the most crucial components of the class needs to be savasana, or “nap time” as some of my students lovingly call it. In this fast moving, over scheduled, high demand world where youth get up early and fall into bed late at night being told they have four minutes to lie on their mat doing absolutely nothing feels like receiving a gift. This time balances work with rest allowing the nervous system to come back into a state of equilibrium. They are so grateful!
Since the initial opportunity in 2010, I have continued to teach yoga and mindfulness with softball, baseball, soccer, football, Cross Country and Track & Field youth athletic teams in a variety of settings. This year, I collaborated with Ann Biese, E-RYT500, RCYT, to document what we have learned through our many years of teaching. We hope you are able to join us at the Yoga & Mindfulness for Youth Athletes one day workshop to learn best practices for integrating yoga and mindfulness into a training regimen.
We hope you can join us soon!
Sally Delisle, E-RYT500, RCYT, YACEP, is the Director and Trainer for ChildLight Yoga Teacher Trainings, as well as a Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer. She is author/creator of the ChildLight Yoga & Mindfulness Advanced Teaching Concepts Training and manual, Yoga & Mindfulness for Youth Athletes Workshop, and contributor to the ChildLight Yoga & Mindfulness in Schools and Tweens & Teens training manuals. Sally completed her 500 hr yoga certification through The Yoga Loft of Bethlehem, PA where she is currently on faculty of the 200 and 300 hour teacher training programs. She has been sharing yoga and mindfulness practices with children, teens and adults in studio, childcare, preschool, public school, and homeschool settings, as well as teaching athletes, coaches and educators at area universities and school districts, for over 17 years. In addition to holding degrees in both Fine Arts/Dance and Psychology, Sally is a Reiki Master, Doula, and National Board Certified Reflexologist.