I am a firm believer in the benefits of yoga for any for any athlete. Standup paddlers are no exception. Paddleboarding targets many muscles of the body and is an incredible workout for the arms, core, shoulders, back, and legs. When you add yoga as a supplement to your sport you receive benefits that you can’t find anywhere else. In this post, I’ll take you through some of the anatomy involved in paddling and how yoga can help take care of parts of your body that need it the most to help you recover faster, prevent injuries, and tap into your utmost potential as an athlete.
If you’re a paddler, you already know the part of the body that gets the most workout is the core. The core muscles include the abdominal muscles, obliques, and the muscles of the low back. The core is constantly engaged while paddling to keep you from falling off an unsteady board. It’s also used in the rotational movement of paddling. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) is a great yoga pose to stretch the whole front side of your core. This pose is a great stretch for the whole front side of the body from the shoulders through the chest and abdominals all the way down to the quadriceps. The backside of the body is strengthened, improving your posture and flexibility of the spine.
Another area of the body used while paddling are the rotator cuffs. Your rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. These four small muscles, deep within the shoulder, hold your arm bone in the shoulder socket, which is the least stable joint in the body. These muscles also contribute to the inward and outward rotation of your arm. Tears and strains in the rotator cuff muscles are common injuries, especially in athletes whose sports involve the arms. Cow face pose (gomukhasana) stretches the rotator cuff of the bottom arm and gets into the tricep of the top arm, which makes for a very beneficial stretch for paddlers.
The deltoid is the triangular muscle that connects the shoulder girdle–the clavicle and the scapula–to the humerus, the arm bone. This means the deltoid muscle is in charge of most all the movements of the arm and is always engaged while paddling. Eagle Pose (Garudasana) is a great pose for stretching the deltoid. This asana will also strengthen and stretch your hips while improving your concentration and balance. Bow Pose, mentioned earlier, is also a nice deltoid stretch for paddlers.
The latissimus dorsi “the lats,” like the deltoids, are involved in upper arm movement as well. The lats span the middle of the back on both sides and are responsible for bringing the arm back to the side time and time again in the stroke motion used in paddling. Try a standing side bend (ardha chandrasana) to get into your lats. Ardha chandrasana is a great side body stretch getting into the lats, obliques, serratus, and the intercostals, all of which are used in paddling.
I hope this article helps all you paddlers out there. I will be teaching a pre-race yoga class to all the NC Surf to Sound participants Saturday at 7am. I hope to see you there. Good luck!
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