Irish Yoga continues to grow and grow, in part due to the huge benefits it can bring but also due to the many expert yoga instructors we have.
Intersport Elverys is fortunate to have our own expert Irish yoga instructor, Roberta Harrington, who has already given some great tips and classes on our platforms.
In this blog, Roberta takes you through some myths, tips & tricks, plus all the advantages for yoga for footballers, GAA players and athletes.
Irish Yoga Myths
“People always think they are to inflexible for yoga and I always laugh at this because if you’re poor at a particular skill in GAA, then the first thing you do is practice it.
“So if you’re practicing your shooting at first, it can be slow to improve. Equally so with your mobility. But once you practice and give it some time, you will see massive improvement and your body will actually crave it.”
Is Yoga Beneficial to Weight Loss?
“Pending on your fitness and body type, it differs from individual to individual.
“But certainly the more rigorous styles of yoga, such as Vinyasa or power yoga, is a very dynamic type of yoga where you will work on strength-based postures and challenge yourself mentally and physically.
“They may not be suitable for beginners, but certainly for weight loss, to get a good sweat on, or just to tone up and strengthen your core, power yoga is the answer.
“And it burns a lot of calories while also working on that range of motion and flexibility.”
Benefits of Irish Yoga to GAA Players and Footballers
“Yoga can be absolutely incredible when it comes to working towards injury prevention – it’s very proactive in that sense.
“With GAA and other sports, you see a lot of reoccurring injuries, like hamstring tears, ACL injuries and shoulder issues, and with yoga, we learn to adapt in any given situation by increasing or lengthening the muscles within the body.
“So with GAA, you’re doing a lot of the same motions over and over again but when your body is taken out of that position, the potential for injury increases. Yoga is amazing for exposing your body to those positions and getting it used to it.
“You see huge build up in quads and hamstrings with GAA players and other footballers, but sometimes there can be imbalances in glutes or knees and yoga is amazing for these.”
Yoga for Mental Health
“Yoga is also fantastic for concentration, mental focus and clarity, which works wonders on the GAA pitch.
“For game days, simple breathing techniques that you learn in class can really help to ground you and become that little bit more present for the match.”
Is yoga becoming more popular in Ireland with GAA players?
“I see a huge amount of teams now using yoga in pre-season and I am working with a lot too, which is fantastic to see.
“Once it was woman dominated in our classes, now you see a lot of GAA players, rugby players, soccer players, who find it a great way to complement their training on the pitch or in the gym.
“They often had the idea that yoga is really spiritual and done by lads with dreadlocks, and are pleasantly surprised to see that that is not the case. Yoga is a great humbler for them too, because they might think they are really strong or flexible, but one class of yoga shows they are not!
“So my advice is to start basic, don’t feel like you can go straight into an advanced class, find your feet and start to progress from there.”
“So, yoga is a spiritual based practice which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body.
“It’s a combination of asanas (or postures) and breathwork, and it allows an individual to relax their mind, become fitter and more flexible, increase strength, to tone, improve breathing and much more.”
Doing yoga at home
“I would recommend just keeping it simple, especially if you’re a beginner and just testing the waters!
“All you need is a yoga mat – no need for an expensive one until you know you’re enjoying what you’re doing – and then some comfortable and breathable clothing and a quiet space to practice.
“Make sure you declutter the space and feel free to light some candles, dim the lights and put on some relaxing music to make the space your own. There are some great yoga playlists on Spotify too.
“If you are just starting out with yoga and have had a recent injury, mat thickness can make a real difference. For example, I had an ALC injury in the past and after the surgery I found that my right knee was very sensitive, due to the use of a thin mat. It made it almost impossible to hold or to enjoy postures like low lunge for example.
“Thicker mats provide more cushioning for sensitive areas of the body, so keep that in mind when you are choosing your mat. Some props can also be very beneficial for those recovering from injury like yoga blocks for hamstring injuries or yoga straps for shoulder injuries. Props are equally as useful for beginners too.”
Benefits of doing yoga at home
“Sometimes heading to a yoga studio can feel like a daunting prospect for beginners, whereas home is generally a space safe for every individual, meaning it is a great place to start your yoga journey until you build confidence and focus on getting the basics rights.
“There is an amazing selection of yoga classes and courses available on YouTube and Instagram now which means that you can save money and take classes on your own schedule, instead of running and racing to make a live class. Having the option to choose from a wide range of instructors is always a huge benefit too, meaning that you can change styles and intensities as you please.
“Personally, however, as a teacher I would say that I crave that studio space because you can really feed off the energy of the people around you. And for beginners, you can see all the different progressions within the class.
“So there’s benefits to both.”
How to breath correctly in yoga
“We look for deep belly breathing in yoga, also known as diaphragmatic breathing and abdominal breathing, which is bringing the breath deep down into the belly, moving beyond shallow chest breathing.
“This is a very calming style of breathing and is especially beneficial for stress reduction.
“It helps to increase oxygen intake and lung capacity, which is crucial for fitness and athletes.
“This can be practiced on its own, or as a warm up or as a cool down breathing exercise in yoga.
“Follow these steps:”
Sit or lie in a comfortable seated position and relax your shoulders
Place one hand one your belly and another on your chest. Close your eyes if you wish
Take a deep breath through your nose, moving the breath into your abdomen and feeling your belly expand. The chest should see little to no movement
Purse your lips (as if drinking through a straw), press gently on your stomach and exhale slowly
Repeat these steps several times
“This is a really popular breathing technique in yoga. It helps improve concentration, quietens the mind and releases tension in the body. Inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose.”
Keep your mouth closed
Constrict your throat to the point that your breathing makes a tidal wave sound, or like waves meeting the shore
Control your breath with your diaphragm
Keep your inhalations and exhalations equal in duration
Different types of yoga
“There are lots of different types of yoga, so enjoy the process of finding your style!
“I’ll take you through some of the main styles now.”
“A style of yoga where we hold postures for 3-5 breaths. The class may be full body focused or it may be centred about a particular charka or body area for example. Some instructors will take you through breathing techniques in a class too.
“Hatha is typically practiced more slowly, with more static posture holds than a Vinyasa flow or Ashtanga class for example. The teacher may include mantras, visualisations, hand gestures and cleansing techniques as part of the class. Sports yoga is hatha based.”
“Vinyasa is often seen as the most athletic or dynamic style of yoga. Movement is performed with the breath. We often say, ‘one breath, one movement’. It is a creative style of yoga where generally no two classes are the same. It is a great style to improve fitness levels, build strength and to tone.”
“A fast-paced style of yoga that’s focused on building strength and endurance… although it requires mindfulness and focus on your breathing, power yoga is more dynamic than meditative forms of yoga and provides a good cardio and strength-training workout.
“You will sure to sweat lots!”
“Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation also known as ‘yogic sleep’ or ‘effortless relaxation’.
“It’s usually practiced lying down with a teacher guiding the session. The practice draws our attention inwards, and we learn to surf between the states of wakefulness and sleep, where our body finds its natural state of equilibrium (homeostasis) – the breath balances and becomes quiet, unconscious and conscious aspects of the mind reveal themselves, and we fall into an innate state of deep, blissful awareness.” This is a great style of yoga to practice if you struggle to fall asleep or if you have poor overall sleep quality.”
“Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a physically demanding style of yoga.
“Students follow a set sequence of postures each time, gradually progressing through the series. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga emphasises the linking of movement and breath (vinyasa), Ujjayi breathing and bandhas (energy blocks).”
“This is named after Bikram Choudhury and features a sequence of set poses in a sauna-like room. The sequence involves 26 basic postures, with each one performed twice. There is a strong focus on alignment in this style.
“Be prepared to sweat – LOTS!”
“This is a vigorous form of yoga performed in a very warm and humid studio. There are many different types of hot yoga classes.”
“This targets your deep connective tissues.
“It’s slower and more meditative, giving you space to turn inward and tune into both your mind and the physical sensations of your body.
“Because you’re holding poses for a longer period of time than you would in other traditional types of yoga, yin yoga helps you stretch and lengthen those rarely-used tissues while also teaching you how to breathe through discomfort and sit with your thoughts.
“Through deep poses, we can open up any blockages and allow energy to flow freely through the body.”
“This encourages physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Appropriate for all levels, restorative yoga is practiced at a slow pace, focusing on long holds, stillness and deep breathing.
“Unlike more active yoga styles such as vinyasa or Bikram, you can expect to hold a pose for 5 minutes or more, only performing a handful of poses in one restorative yoga session.”
“Today I will take you through basic yoga postures that will get you started on your yoga journey. These postures will help improve your flexibility, mobility and will of course works towards advance your overall physical and mental health.”
“This is a great posture to learn just to meditate in or to slow down your breathing. Take a criss-cross position with the legs, allow the knees to fall out naturally left and right, and the most important thing here is that we lift up through the crown of the head, draw the shoulders back and down and really try to elongate that back and spine.
“Take the hands to the outside to the knees or to prayer at heart centre, when you’re feeling ready go ahead and close down the eyes. We’re simply going to work towards slowing down our breath here, keeping that breath slow, breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the nose.”
Cat & Cow
“Take yourself to a table top position, or all fours, stacking the hands beneath the shoulders and knees hip distance apart, toes untucked at the back. As you inhale drop the belly down, turn your tailbone up and lift your gaze straight ahead for cow pose.
“And as you exhale press down through the palm of your hands and begin to wind up with your spine, tuck your pelvis under, your chin to your chest for cat pose. Exhaling finding cat, inhaling finding cow.”
Wide Childs Pose
“Take your big toes to touch at the back, take your knees a little wider than hip width and begin to walk your hands forward reaching through the finger tips and reach your forehead down towards the mat. Find a slow and steady breath and close down the eyes.”
Low Lunge pose
“Step your right foot ahead, stack the knee over the ankle. Lift up through the torso reaching up through the crown of the head and draw the shoulders back. Option to take hands to prayer at heart centre or to reach u either side of the head, I want you to push nice and deep into that right knee at the front.”
“This is a really good grounding and balancing posture. So to get here I want you to shift your weight into your left foot and place the sole of your right foot into the inside of your left calf and create that triangular looking shape with the right knee.
“Go ahead and draw in the belly button so activating the core, take hands to prayer at heart centre or go ahead and reach up all the way overhead. Focus on a point in front of you or what we like to call a Drishti, and this will help you to stay balanced.”
“People thing they’re too inflexible for yoga and I always laugh at this because is that not the reason you’re doing it – to improve? It’s like practicing a skill in any other sport, you will not get better unless you do it. You will probably hate it to begin with, which I did and now I am a yoga teacher! But once you get through that barrier, it could take 6-8 weeks, you will find that your body will actually crave the movement and the space and the time, so give it a chance.”
What is the best yoga for weight loss?
“This differs from person to person, but I would say depending on your fitness and your body type, I would say for a complete beginner that might have a bit more weight to loss, a hatha style yoga would be a great introduction.
“As you progress, you may choose a more vigorous style like Vinyasa or Power. They are much more of a dynamic style where you will work on strength-based postures and it will challenge you mentally and physically.
“But make sure to attend a beginner’s class first as it will give you a sense of achievement and not a sense of failure you might get at a really difficult class.”