Creator: Keith Allison | Credit: KeithAllisonPhoto.com
Yoga for pitchers? At first, no one would ever think of yoga and baseball to be a good match. After all, these two disciplines are very different. Baseball is a competitive sport, while yoga is all about accepting yourself. Baseball players aim for a home run, while yoga is all about realizing you are already home.
Nevertheless, despite these disparities, yoga can be a great complement to a completely different discipline. This article will explain how yoga can help baseball players become better in their chosen sport.
The Biomechanics of Pitching and Batting
There are two central positions that baseball players take. These are pitching and batting. Therefore, to be great at these positions, one must look at the biomechanics of pitching and batting the ball.
Pitchers and batters need to throw and hit the ball fast in the right direction without experiencing pain. According to a study published in Research Gate in 2016, pitch and batting speed rely heavily on two movements.
The first movement is trunk separation, which is the movement where the pelvis and chest rotate. The second movement is trunk flexion, which is the movement where the trunk flexes to either pitch, bat, or catch the ball.
For pitchers, trunk separation is very crucial in getting into the correct position. Pitchers have to stretch their core, particularly their oblique muscles, which separate their trunk. It’s an essential movement to rotate their pelvis and chest and gain momentum and force upon pitching the ball.
Achieving trunk separation can be challenging because you need to have a tremendous active range of motion in the spine to rotate the thoracic spine.
But most often, this movement is limited due to tightness on pain in the back and side muscles, particularly the psoas, obliques, lats, and smaller muscles around the erector spinae. Sometimes, this movement is limited because of the inactivity of these muscle groups.
Aside from trunk separation, pitchers also need excellent trunk flexion. Motus Global found that pitchers pitch the ball faster when they have excellent trunk flexion. The further they can flex their hip to the back while flexing their trunk, the more space they have. When they have more space, pitchers can throw the ball faster.
For baseball batters, the same biomechanics as pitchers apply. However, they need trunk flexion to swing the ball in a much more controlled motion. By using flexion and the strength of the trunk, baseball batters can swing the bat and hit the ball more efficiently.
That is because instead of using momentum alone to swing the bat to the back and forward, they contract their muscles while rotating and lengthening the spine.
How Yoga Can Help Pitchers and Baseball Batters
Yoga can be a great complement to any athletic performance. Here’s how yoga can help baseball players.
Opportunity to Practice the Movement
For baseball players, yoga can help in increasing the range of motion of the spine. In addition, most baseball players practice weight training, which improves muscle mass, strength, and endurance.
But it doesn’t offer baseball players the same movement patterns they do in pitching and batting in baseball and softball. Therefore, it is crucial to practice the same movements repeatedly to develop the skill, making you perform more accurately, efficiently, and smoothly.
For instance, the yoga pose Revolved Crescent Lunge, or Parivrtta Ashtachandrasana, has similar biomechanics to swinging the baseball ball. The right side of the trunk and the hip flexion, while the trunk is in rotation and separation.
When baseball players practice the movement, they can increase their athletic performance. Because it helps the body prepare for the load, it’s going to get once the players are in the field.
Yoga for pitchers and other baseball players can help in improving their focus. Yoga is primarily a mindfulness practice. A 2017 review of studies shows that consistently practicing mindfulness improves precision sports by increasing concentration.
As a baseball player, whether you are a batter or pitcher, you have to be precise when pitching and to hit the baseball. So, you need to concentrate on the baseball as you throw or beat it.
Another way yoga can help baseball players is through injury prevention. A sports injury can happen in various ways. Yoga can be used as a conditioning practice. Baseball players can also practice yoga as part of the warm-up and cool down. All these ways are essential to prevent injury.
Yoga is an excellent practice for increasing the mobility of baseball players, whether they are pitchers or batters. Mobility is the ability to move through an active range of motion without pain.
In addition, mobility needs strength and flexibility, which you can get from practicing yoga regularly. Yoga is also excellent for targeting muscles that you may not usually train in other forms of exercise, such as weight lifting.
Yoga Poses for Pitchers and Batters
Baseball players can benefit from practicing all yoga asanas. But some asanas are more beneficial compared to other asanas when it comes to their sport. Here are some yoga poses for pitchers, batters, catchers, and other baseball players to help them become better on the field.
A child’s pose can help baseball players improve the flexion of their trunk, which allows in pitching and hitting and catching the ball. It also releases the back muscles. To do child’s pose:
- Come down on your hands and knees.
- Open the knees as wide as the hips and bring the toes together.
- Slowly bring the buttocks close to your heels. Then, bring the forehead down on the ground.
- Stay in Child’s Pose for a few cycles of breath.
Revolved Triangle Pose
A revolved triangle pose can help baseball players, particularly pitchers and batters, in their trunk separation and rotation. A bonus is the stretching of the hamstrings and glutes. To do this asana:
- Stand up in Mountain Pose with hands to your side and feet as wide as the hips. Step the right foot to the back with the heel down, and toes are slightly pointing out.
- Inhale to bring the arms up. Exhale and bring the trunk forward to allow trunk separation. Then bring the right hand or fingers down a foot away from the left foot.
- Then rotate the chest to the left and extend the left arm up.
- Stay in this asana for a few rounds of breath.
Twisted Side Angle
The twisted side angle pose is excellent for trunk flexion, rotation, and separation. It also externally rotates the hip, which is a movement batters and pitchers do. To do this yoga asana:
- Stand with your legs as wide as you can. Keep your toes pointing straight forward.
- Now turn the right foot at a 90-degree angle to the side and bend the right knee. Make sure the knee is on top of the ankle.
- Bring the left hand or fingers down beside the right foot. Then rotate the trunk to the right and extend the right arm.
- Stay in this pose for a few rounds of breath and do it on the other side.
Note: If you can’t keep the back foot from lifting, bring the hip to a neutral position, turn the foot to face forward, and lift the heel. This pose will become a Twisted Lunge, which still has the same biomechanics and benefits for baseball players.
The deer pose is a yin yoga pose that excellent for baseball players, particularly pitchers. The pitching mechanics show baseball pitchers need to rotate the back hip internally to have a closed-shoulder position upon throwing the ball. To do the deer pose:
- Sit down on the ground with the heels close to your sitting bones. The knees and feet should be a little wider than the hips.
- Bring both knees to the right. Doing this will internally rotate the left hip while externally rotating the right. You can stay here or bring your hands towards the right in front of the right shin and fold forward. Make sure the hips, knees, and ankles are at a 90-degree angle.
- Stay in this asana for a few cycles of breath. Do it on the other side.
Baseball and yoga might look like two completely different disciplines. But practicing yoga can help baseball players in improving their athletic performance and hit a home run. If you are a baseball player who wants to take advantage of yoga to become a better athlete, enroll in a yoga session with a certified and experienced yoga instructor who knows your sport.