Finding Balance

Yoga for athletes.

Athletes often suffer from chronic back and joint pain stemming from muscle imbalance. By increasing core strength and flexibility, and therefore balance, Pilates can help correct and alleviate that pain so you can enjoy all your favorite winter activities. These exercises help balance the body’s muscles, leading to improved alignment and relieved joint discomfort and easing strain on the body. Improving core strength also helps with posture and body alignment, reducing lower back pain while increasing power and reducing injury risk.

Plank Exercises
Start in a full plank position with your hands on the floor, fingers spread wide, and shoulders over your wrists. With an inhale, shift your hips up, coming into a downward dog or inverted “V” position. With a strong exhale, shift forward into plank, drawing your right knee toward your right elbow. Inhale back to inverted “V” and then straighten your right leg and lift it up toward the ceiling. When you exhale back into plank, draw your right knee toward your left elbow, engaging the abdominal obliques. Repeat five times to each elbow, and then switch sides. (As this gets easier, come forward into a low push-up instead of a plank to work your arms more.)

Leg Lifts
Standing with both feet parallel, lift your sternum but keep your front lower ribs drawn together and your lower back long. With your shoulders relaxed, draw your arms up to sternum level and out to the sides. Maintaining a neutral spine and shifting your weight into your left leg, point your right toes directly behind you with a straight leg. Without compromising your spine, lift your straight right leg up with an exhale, and lower it with an inhale without touching the floor. Do this ten times; on the tenth rep, hold it up and do small pulses towards the ceiling. Repeat with your opposite leg, and then do the same exercise with both of your hips and legs externally rotated. 

Glute Variations
Place your hands on a chair in front of you, flexing forward from your hips and bending at the knees. Without shifting your left knee forward past your toes, lift your right leg up with a flexed foot, keeping both knees bent. Press your right heel up with an exhale, and, squeezing your right glute, lower with an inhale. Repeat with the opposite side. You can do an external variation with your torso upright. 

Jamie Bartley owns Reform Pilates in Bozeman.