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6 essential tips for teaching Yoga to Athletes.

November 24, 2017 | 4 min read

Teaching athletes can be a little confusing at first. Their strength can often get in the way of traditional flexibility poses and their need to be pushed a little harder doesn’t always work for every yoga class. There are a few ways that you can successfully teach athletes that will keep them coming back to class for a long time.


Understand That Athletes Aren’t Yogis (Yet)

Athletes main focus is the sport that they routinely practice, that means that their yoga practice is more of an occasional element. Knowing that these athletes have a higher priority in their fitness routine will help you to help them develop an asana practice that works best for them.

While their main sport is their focus helping them to develop a well-rounded practice will encourage them to show up on their mat a couple times a week.


Take A Pass On The Sanskrit

Most athletes have minimal yoga experience. That means that an overuse of Sanskrit can make the practice more frustrating than beneficial. Stick with simple and clear instructions to avoid confusion and allow your athlete students to really focus on the practice. If you have a good understanding of their sport, utilize verbiage that is relevant to their sport.

You can always implement Sanskrit and yogic philosophy if they begin to show an interest in it or have been practising with you for a while.


Use Similar Postures To Their Main Activity

Choosing postures or sequences that mimic things that these athletes do in their everyday sport is a great way to get them to focus and to really learn to access their body in a new way. Each athlete will have a different set of movements that they are familiar with so it is best to really tailor your sequences.

For example:

Someone that does CrossFit will enjoy practices that include squatting postures and a more fast-paced vinyasa class. While a rock climber may be better served with postures and sequences that access their balance and range of motion. Runners will benefit from back bending and any lunge series that stretch out the hip flexors.

Classes for athletes should move through all the ranges of motion of the body and the spine. Be sure to include, Forward Folds, Sidebends, Backbends, and Twists, to allow for a well-balanced practice. These postures are essential to creating a balanced practice for athletes.

In choosing poses that are familiar to their main athletic pursuit, you are showing that you have an understanding of what they do which will make them more likely to return to your class.


Don’t Be Afraid To Challenge Them

Any athlete loves a good challenge. Odds are they are already pretty strong, so don’t be afraid to throw in difficult sequences that require a little endurance or arm balances and inversions. While you always want to ensure a safe practice, giving athletes a physical challenge will help them to connect to their yoga practice.


Know Your Anatomy

Athletes bodies are finely tuned machines. That is why it is important that you understand not only anatomy but also functional anatomy. Understanding how, why, and the best way to move the body will allow you to teach athletes in a way that is the most beneficial to them. Most athletes have a deep understanding of how their body works in their given sport, and your knowledge in that space will help them feel confident in placing their practice in your hands.


Be Open To Doing Things Differently

When you have been teaching for a while it can be easy to get stuck doing things one way. Working with athletes is one of the places where you can get incredibly creative. You can utilize creative sequences and poses that help them to stretch in ways that will benefit their body and their mind.

When you find yourself in a class amongst athletes, know that with a few simple adjustments you can create a quality class. These tips will help you create a class that not only brings the beautiful practice of yoga into the world of an athlete, they will also help them to find a new found strength and flexibility that will echo into their sport.

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