How to help with your flexibility whilst reducing stress ahead of the new season
Yoga is not necessarily something you would relate with cheerleading, right? However now, many people are using and promoting yoga as a great practice outside of the cheer sessions to increase flexibility and support yourself/your child mentally.
Recently I have started yoga and have noticed a change in my flexibility, fitness and my overall mental state. I feel more confident within myself, and ready for the next season. This is why I am going to be sharing some tips with you, to start a fun new activity for yourself or your child to do leading up to and throughout the season!
Yoga poses for Cheerleading flexibility
The first pose for flexibility is downward facing dog. This pose is good for strengthening the spine and building strength in the arms shoulders and back. It will then also improve flexibility as it stretches out your hamstring, calves, feet, wrists and hands.
It also offers health benefits like improving the digestive system and relieving back pain, headaches, fatigue, stress and calms the nervous system, therefore is ideal to be performed before and after cheer sessions.
The next few poses are a section of sun salutations, that are good for warming up the body and feeling energised. It includes a forward fold, a controlled ‘press up’ like position with elbows in and a cobra pose (tutorial below). These moves are not only good for flexibility in both the legs, back and shoulder, but for core and arm strength also! It is also proven to help blood circulation and stamina.
Yoga for balance
The first pose is called tree pose which is a particularly helpful pose for both flyers and bases. This pose improves balance, concentration and focus, reduces flat feet (Which is really helpful for power in jumps!). It also stretches your body and strengthens your ankles, calves, thighs and spine. So not only will it improve a flyers balance in stunts, but also helps to build a steady base beneath them.
Flyers…If you want to challenge yourself and use a hip opening technique why not try half lotus tree pose where you balance your foot higher up on your hip rather than your legs.
The next pose is a sequence of warrior poses. These poses help to warm up the body and stretch the whole body, whilst strengthening places such as your back and ankles. You would be surprised to find out it actually helps develop stamina, balance and coordination whilst toning your abdomen.
Yoga Sequence for cool downs
This is my favourite yoga sequence and the moves are called moon salutations. These poses are great for some stress relief/cool down after an intense cheer practice so that your muscles do not tense up (we’ve all been out of cheer for a while so this will be needed after the first session!) It stretches and strengthens all of the major muscle groups, aids flexibility and increases the functioning and balance of the respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems.
A good breathing technique to use after this pose that also helps with stress/frustration release is called lion’s breath. This is a fun one to do with kids or on your own, where you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth whilst sticking your tongue out (a bit like a dog panting but slower).
Yoga for stress relief and relaxation
The first pose great for stress relief and calming the nervous system is child’s pose. This pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles, it also calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue, back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported.
You should add the humming bee breathing technique to child’s pose to help stress relief. This technique involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose whilst making a long humming sound. Do this around 3-5 times within this pose to feel the relaxation!
Using Yoga techniques to visualise Cheerleading routines
Finally and the most important technique for cheerleaders is guided visualisation. This technique is where you have to vision yourself winning the competition before you go on stage and imagine you lifting the trophy. You have to feel what you would feel like when you win and go onto the floor feeling that way (Strong, confident, courageous). This can even be used in try-outs, just imagine yourself on the team!
Before you go onto the floor try some belly breathing where you inhale and expand your belly like a balloon, and then when you exhale deflate your belly, which really helps with anxiety release.
We hope you enjoyed this article and some insight into how you can integrate knowledge from other sports and activities to enhance your journey as a cheerleader!