It has taken professional athletes a long time to come around to the concepts of yoga and the benefits of muscle balance and deep core work. As an article from yesterday’s New York Times suggests, not all of the teams have come to embrace the ideas of flexibility and muscle balance. However, if the trend continues all organizations will have to adopt these practices to stay competitive.
Season after season, I have watched my favorite team, the New York Giants, get decimated by injuries. Such a consistent record of injuries points to issues with strength and conditioning training.
The Falcons, who visit the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, have emphasized flexibility, based on a procedure called Functional Movement Systems. Its developer is the physical therapist Gray Cook, who has offered demonstrations at the N.F.L. Combine and estimates that 8 to 10 teams use the methods, which he said departed from the long-held credo of bigger, faster, stronger.
Bringing balance to opposing muscles has to apply to everyone. I might not need powerful muscles to compete at a professional level in football or hockey, but I need a ton of core strength to last ninety years in this rather precarious body of muscle, ligaments and bones. My main emphasis is on aging gracefully and that requires a great deal of muscle balance, strength and movement in, and from, the deep core of the body.
Gary Wire’s first order of business with the Falcons was submitting to the F.M.S. test, which has seven core parts. It pinpoints asymmetrical regions of the body, along with tightness and weakness in muscles. Athletes are graded on a scale of 0 to 3 in each category, which serves as their baseline.
One test might measure leg lifts. If, say, the left knee rises two inches lower than the right, the weaker leg will be singled out for improvement. The assumption with such imbalance is that half the body could be overcompensating for the other.
In yoga class I am often saying that we need to approach the body like a science project. If one muscle group is tight, its opposite is likely loose and we need to have a plan on how to change that relationship. Muscle balance is the key to ageing gracefully, which is my main goal.