We’ve talked about the importance of strength training for roller derby before. But strength isn’t the only piece of the cross-training puzzle – balance and flexibility are also essential to making sure you’re playing at the top of your game. And what’s one of the best ways to get more balanced and flexible? You guessed it – YOGA! You may already be doing yoga in your fitness routine, but you can take it to the next level with derby-specific yoga, designed by Flat Mat Yoga! The awesome Lemony Kickit is here with a guest post this week to introduce you to a few derby-specific moves to help you get balanced and bendy.
Yoga for Roller Derby
by Lemony Kickit
If you think yoga is just chanting, breathing, and stretching—think again. (Though let’s be real; do you actually stretch enough after practice? Maybe a little more isn’t a bad idea…)
If you find the right teacher, which could be me or someone you know in your home city, yoga can be an awesome addition to cross-training for derby. Better focus, more flexibility and stability, and better balance will definitely help your game.
Ready to get on your mat? Try these poses for a little something different that will catch some of the main muscle groups you need on the track: core, hips, legs, and shoulders. If you’re new to yoga, these will be a good starting point, and if you’ve been practicing for a while, these are probably a little different than what you usually see in class!
Yes, you’ve probably done this before. Start on hands and knees. On an inhale, lift your head and tailbone up toward the ceiling. As you exhale, round your spine and curl your head and tailbone toward the floor.
Here’s the thing, though: this isn’t just about flopping your body up and down. Focus on how you’re moving with your breath—can you use the full length of the inhale to lift, rather than taking the movement quickly and then finishing your inhale?
Even more importantly: as you inhale, can you focus on feeling your shoulders sliding away from your ears, to encourage your shoulders to draw back and not hunch? And as you exhale, can you lift up with your low belly—the spot below your belly button—so that your abdominal muscles begin to work?
One fun variation (read: bonus core and shoulder strengthening!) can be to take the typical cat/cow but with your knees hovering a couple of centimeters off the floor (see photos above).
>> Looks like you're going to need some new yoga gear. Lucky for you, Pivotstar pants, shorts and tanks are on sale RIGHT NOW! Now you can look and feel great on the track, and in a deep lunge. <<
Hip Flexor Magic
If you haven’t been doing anything to give your hip flexors some love, get down on the floor right now. Between sitting and derby stance, they NEED your attention!
I know you already do lunges and this looks like it’s just a lunge, but I assure you: it’s likely very different from what you typically feel when you’re in a lunge. Start with your right foot forward and left foot back, left knee on the floor. Tuck your back toes, and press back through your left heel to begin lifting your left knee off the floor—but only lift your knee as much as you can without changing the position/height of your pelvis. That’s probably going to be a pretty tiny movement, and that’s a-okay: you’re strengthening and stretching your hip flexors.
After you lift your left knee up and lower it down about ten times, swap to the other side.
Need some help? Here’s a little more explanation.
The more I befriend PTs and yoga therapists, the more I learn that no one is using their butt muscles nearly enough, even in roller derby! So again, even though you might do lunges, try them out this way to incorporate different strengthening.
Start with your right foot forward and left foot back, with hands down on the floor (or books, or blocks). Press down firmly through your right heel, and reach your right hip directly back behind you—imagine using the right side of your butt to pull your right thigh bone back. Continue to press down through your right heel and try to use your booty to help you rise up to a lunge with your arms reaching up.
(Didn’t feel your butt do any of the work? Lower your hands back down and try again!)
Hold for 3-5 breaths, lower your hands to the floor, and switch sides.
Your leg muscles take a beating from all of the hours that you skate every week, but your shoulders…don’t. Don’t forget about paying attention to them in your off-skates training.
My favorite way to build shoulder stability is dolphin pose. Start on hands and knees, and then lower forearms down to the floor. Make sure your shoulders are stacked above your elbows—one way to find this is to hug left biceps with right hand, and right biceps with left hand. Keep that arm position, and bring your hands out in front of you and interlace your fingers.
Round your upper back like cat pose, let your head hang toward the floor, and tuck your toes under and lift your knees away from the floor. You can always keep your knees bent or step your feet wider apart if your hamstrings need a little more space. Try to breathe steadily as you hold this shape for 5-10 breaths.
Think you don’t like yoga? Kat Selvocki (aka Lemony Kickit) might change your mind. When Kat retired from Gotham Girls Roller Derby, yoga was the last thing she expected to find on the other side. That is, until she discovered a class called Yoga Fight Club, where she learned that she could do yoga AND hit people–in the same room. Sold! Since then, Kickit has completed 200+ hours of training and taught in her adventurous, mindful, unpretentious style around the globe. Based in Seattle, she specializes in teaching athletes and is the queen bee at Flat Mat Yoga. You’ll often find her skating around Seattle, climbing walls at Seattle Bouldering Project, and hiking the trails of Washington and Oregon. Say hi on Instagram (@katselvocki) or Facebook (@Flat Mat Yoga).
Want more love for your core, hips, legs, and shoulders? The Flat Mat Regionals program starts on September 16. You’ll get downloadable yoga videos, PDFs of the sequences that you can print and take to practice with you, and personal support from Kickit. On the east coast? She might be able to train with you in person on her upcoming 2015 east coast tour! It’s time to take better care of your body, don’t you think?
P.S. I’ve got LOADS more tips like these to help improve your game. Download my FREE ebook “Lulu’s Top Ten Roller Derby Tips” right here!