Model: Courtney Rennie (rower) at Lake Karapiro.
Anyone who knows Cambridge, knows that it is HQ for New Zealand rowing. As a yoga for athletes’ specialist I’ve worked with many rowers, from high school novices through to elite and Olympic level athletes.
Knowing the level of work and commitment this sport demands, the hardest thing is to see an athlete get sidelined by injuries that are largely avoidable.
The majority of injuries rowers experience are overuse injuries. Poor technique, imbalance or misalignment in the body, and overtraining are the main contributing factors. Areas of the body most commonly affected are the lower back, wrist and forearms, ribs and knees.
Poor flexibility and insufficient core strength can lead to compromised technique and imbalances that over time result in rowers becoming injured.
In terms of injury prevention, yoga for rowers can be a great help in developing healthy sport-specific flexibility, easing areas of stress and tightness, and developing core strength.
There are dozens of yoga poses that can be helpful. I have picked my top five poses and sequences that will help keep rowers in balance.
1) Tight hamstrings inhibit efficient form in rowing, and can contribute to back strain. This sequence is perfect for rowers as it’s done lying down, keeping the spine in neutral position. This means the stretch can be effectively focused on the target area of the hamstrings without being compromised by rounding the spine, as well as avoiding any strain on sensitive backs. The sequence stretches the hamstrings and inner and outer thighs, including the ITB. For full instructions check out the guided video at www.balanceyoga.co.nz/page/media-and-blog/
2) Tight hip flexors are a by-product of rowing, but if they become overly tight they will pull the body out of healthy alignment through the pelvis and spine. Hold this stretch on each side for one minute.
3) With elbows under the shoulders, this pose helps develop holistic core strength, without weight bearing through the wrists. Aim for solid neutral alignment from the heels to the crown of the head. Hold for 30-60 seconds, 3-5 repeats.
4) A simple sequence of wrist movements and forearm stretching can help keep wrists supple and ease tightness and strain in wrists and forearms. For more options, there are many good online resources to tap into.
5) An excellent counter-pose to balance out from the forward rounded position of rowing. Sit in front of a bolster (or similar) and lie back over it. Take the arms out from the sides (palms face up) to bring gentle stretch across the front of the chest and shoulders. Remain here relaxed for five minutes.