Published on May 22nd, 2015 | by Guest Contributor0
How to Make Yoga Practice Work for You
By Kat Selvocki aka Lemony Kickit
Back in September, trACDC shared a post on livederbygirl.com that talked about how yoga can benefit your derby game, calling out things like flexibility, focus, and balance. Maybe you read that or happened across my blog, or maybe you heard a league mate raving about yoga. Whatever it was, you decided to try a class. And maybe during the class you attended, there was a lot of chanting, and you saw too many people contorting themselves into weird shapes that you’re pretty sure your body will never make, and you decided never to go back.
I get that. I’ve been there. Sometimes, I’m still there!
The thing is, I’d like you to give it another try. And if you haven’t checked out a yoga class in the first place—maybe because you think you’re not flexible enough, or that you have better things to do to train for derby—I’d like you to give it a go.
Here’s the thing: yoga isn’t a miracle drug. Not every pose works well for every body, and not every cue that a teacher gives will make sense to you. When it comes down to it, yoga is about getting tuned in with yourself and paying attention. Additionally, as an athlete, it’s a really helpful way to learn what’s going on with your body and your breath. It can give you tools to work with the strengths and flexibilities that you have, so that you can keep mobility and balance in your body.
Think “mindful movement” and “range of movement” rather than “stretching” and “crazy pretzel poses.”
Because classes don’t always cater to athletes, I’ve got some tips to help you the next time you check out a yoga class. Here are six things to try to make your yoga practice work for your roller derby body:
1. Sit up!
You keep telling me how tight your hips are and how much your low back hurts, so why are you afraid grab the blocks and blankets in the yoga studio and use them? When you sit up on a higher surface, it allows your knees to drop closer to the floor so that your continually contracted hip flexors get a little bit of a break.
Pro tip: Putting blocks under your knees or thighs gives your legs a place to rest, which means a little more release for muscles that tend to grip.
2. Move your feet.
Yeah, Warrior 1 kind of sucks. Feeling low back or knee twinges? Move your feet wider apart so that they’re not on a tightrope, and maybe step them a little closer to each other while you’re at it.
Pro tip: If that’s still not helping, lift your back heel and work in a lunge instead!
3. Skip that pigeon pose.
Pigeon requires a lot of openness in the body to keep it safe for your joints. If it hurts your knees or hips, it’s time to get out. Try a seated or reclined variation instead.
Pro tip: Props can be super useful here, too! Sit on a blanket for the seated version, or in reclined pigeon, wrap a skate noose around the back of your thigh and hold that instead of your leg.
4. Bend your knees.
You’re used to doing it on the track; why not try it on the mat? If you’ve got tight hamstrings, you’ll still give them some love and attention, and you won’t be forcing the ligaments around your hips and knees into potentially compromising positions, either. Everyone wins—especially your joints!
Pro tip: You’ve probably guessed by now, but I really, really love props. They’re like having go-go gadget arms! In standing forward folds, try using blocks to bring the floor to you.
5. Don’t yank yourself into poses!
Watch for when you’re gripping or pulling. If you’re holding tension in your hands, there’s a good chance that you’re bringing it into other parts of your body, too. Move into poses with palms up or flat on the floor.
Pro tip: When you’re moving into poses like the one in the photo, be aware of the position of your head. We often pull our chins forward thanks to sitting in front of computers, which adds strain to the neck and shoulders.
6. HAVE FUN!
Look, when a yoga teacher tells me during class to smile, I want to punch her about 91% of the time. That said, not taking it all so seriously can help a lot when you’re getting used to a yoga practice and how it feels in your body. Remember: you’re doing this to improve your mobility while you skate, and you LOVE to skate. Think how much better it’ll feel when you’re not stiff all of the time!
Bio: When Lemony Kickit (Kat Selvocki) retired from Gotham Girls Roller Derby, yoga was the last thing she expected to find on the other side. That is, until she discovered a class called Yoga Fight Club, where she learned that she could do yoga AND hit people–in the same room. Sold! Since then, Kickit has completed 200+ hours of training and taught in her adventurous, mindful, unpretentious style around the globe. Based in Seattle and Portland, she specializes in teaching athletes and is the queen bee at Flat Mat Roller Derby: Yoga for Skaters.