This is an excerpt from Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham.
American football includes many positions, and each requires different stretches to maximize performance. This chapter outlines the poses that all football players need to help prevent injuries and enhance their performance on the field. Football injuries range from legs and ankles up through shoulders and arms. Focusing on these specific areas will decrease the chances of injury, as well as increase speed and flexibility, both of which will help when blocking, tackling, or extending for the ball. In addition to these specific areas, football players should take the time to stretch the whole body instead of just one part of the body to help in other motions used on the field. Each play is different and requires split-second movements that may require subtle areas of the body usually not associated with playing football. An example of such an area is the ankles. Most players focus most stretching on the large muscles. Ankle sit/toe sit has a great benefit to preventing ankle rolling, sprains, and even turf toe. Yoga can help keep these areas become flexible and adaptable.
The poses presented for this sport are for every position and for the whole body. Each pose was chosen to target areas football players generally have tightness in or areas that are injury prone. Take the time to hold each pose for 10 to 20 breaths or longer. Try to relax while holding the pose instead of fighting the stretch. Repeat a side that seems tighter, and hold it longer. Following these guidelines will help you stay loose, mobile, and ready for your next game.
Ankle Sit/Toe Sit
Whether you play on natural or artificial turf, the feet take a pounding during football games or practice. The ankle sit/toe sit sequence stretches the small muscles of the feet to provide relief and increase flexibility of the ankles. From downward-facing dog pose, bend both knees and lower to your hands and knees. Keep your toes curled under, and walk your hands back to your knees as you slowly take your hips to your heels. Lift your chest, aligning your shoulders over your hips. Sit tall; you have moved into toe sit (figure 10.1a). Next, walk your hands forward to return to your hands and knees. Uncurl your toes, and again walk your hands back to your knees. Sit on your heels; you have moved into ankle sit (figure 10.1b). Hold each pose for 10 to 20 breaths.
Learn more about Yoga for Athletes.