How sports massage can improve your yoga technique
Yoga is a great way to keep fit, physically and mentally. But whether you’re a beginner or have practiced for years, some positions can seem impossible to perform, or even bring about some pain or discomfort. For example, if you have tight hamstrings, downward facing dog can be difficult, if you have lower back pain, forward or backward bends might be painful. If your hips are tight, the lotus position may be tough to get into and hold. From my own experience, I started going to yoga classes to help improve my flexibility, but got frustrated when finding simple positions difficult or uncomfortable because of my lack of mobility. This is where sports massage can help.
It might seem unnecessary to go to your weekly yoga class and to have a regular massage, they both do the same thing, right? Increase mobility, decrease stress and give you a bit of “me” time. But the two complement each other in ways that can be so much more beneficial than just engaging in one activity.
The benefits of yoga and sports massage:
- Help you relax – massage can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and yoga improves the quality of your breathing (respiration) allowing more oxygen in and helps the body relax and relieve stress.
- Decrease muscle soreness – massage helps to shift lactic acid that has built up from exercise and yoga encourages us to use our joints’ full range of motion so muscles get a good stretch.
- Increase mobility – sports massage can help to lengthen tight muscles and release trigger points, commonly known as “knots”. Yoga poses help to stretch lots of different muscles, while also strengthen the core.
Practicing yoga is great for the mind and the body. But when you hit a plateau with a certain pose, or your general progress, this is where the addition of sports massage is so useful.
Once you identify what positions are tough to get into, or what brings about some pain or discomfort, the sports massage therapist can assess what is the problem. Most of the time, it is because certain muscles and tissues are unable to lengthen, causing some sort of compensation from other muscles. This is usually due to old injuries, however long ago or innocuous they may have been, or altered movement patterns that have been adapted by an activity you do daily, sitting at a desk for work, for example. There are often times where the area you are feeling pain or discomfort may not be the cause of the problem, it may be another muscle that cannot perform its job correctly and the painful area is overworking.
The therapist can identify these tissues and then treat accordingly to lengthen the appropriate muscles and allow the nervous system to trust that it is safe to put load through that tissue. The therapist may also give you simple exercises to help maintain muscle length and its ability to take weight. Then, you will have newfound confidence to try new positions that you had previously written off because of restriction.
Not only that, but you may also find that you feel stronger and more mobile with the rest of your yoga experience and in general day-to-day life! Although yoga is not a competitive activity, we always want to improve, and wouldn’t it be great to remove that feeling of pain, discomfort, and restriction?
How many sports massage sessions will I need?
It can take a couple of sessions within a short space of time to get some momentum with the treatment and to start feeling more long-term results, then the therapist might recommend increasing the time between treatments. 2-3 sessions once a week to start with is usually encouraged to get some pain relief, then a monthly session to help maintain progress would then be recommended, with some therapists prescribing exercises to help build strength, improve technique and mobility.
Your yoga instructor will usually tell you that yoga should be a daily practice, so think the same with any exercises your therapist has given you. Then, gradually you will reap the benefits of consistency and see your yoga technique improve!