When I first started playing tennis, I was warned to be careful not to over develop one side or another. My teacher explained imbalances can lead to injuries. News to me, and I didn’t know what that meant, so I started doing some research. Sure enough, tennis players are often out of balance. They are side-dominant because they play a very side-dominant sport.
And being side-dominant can become a big problem.
“If the musculature along the left side of your spine is out of balance in relation to the right the spine can be pulled out of alignment,” yoga expert and avid, competitive tennis player Tommy Rosen explains. “This can lead to all kinds of painful physical challenges not too far down the road. Once the spine is out of alignment, then the body compensates further perhaps drawing your hips, knees or ankles to be out of alignment. Suddenly you feel certain pains you’ve never felt before down one side of your leg.”
Luckily, yoga can help bring tennis players back into balance.
“Yoga brings strength, flexibility and if approached correctly restores balance,” continues Tommy. “It is a perfect modality for tennis players to increase mobility, decrease injuries and lengthen their career whether novice or pro.”
“Tennis players need to work on postures that will help them gain the awareness to transfer their center of gravity from hip to hip, rather than being stuck in their dominant hip” explains professional sports mobility expert and yoga teacher Dana Santas.
“Improving rotation of their mid-back in both directions will also help their back hand and help them avoid tennis elbow.”
“Because tennis players are rotational athletes, they need to work on triplanar movement that accentuates a stable full range of motion in the transverse plane,” Dana continues. “Any t-spine twists with holds focused on proper rhomboid engagement and scapular placement are going to be helpful because, as I mentioned before, being able to strongly rotate from their mid-back will enhance fluid rotation with proper mechanics to keep the stress off the elbow joint.”
Core strength is also essential. “The diaphragm is not just a breathing muscle but also a core postural muscle that attaches to both the rib cage and low back as well as running through the psoas major,” explains Dana. “Proper breathing mechanics (diaphragmatic breathing) should be practiced in conjunction with core strengthening.”
If you’re a tennis player looking at yoga for the first time, take some advice from Tommy. “Go slowly. Get a great teacher and use props. There is no rush.”
Here are 8 poses to help you cultivate core strength and get back in balance.