Swapping scrums for swan poses and hakkas for half moons...world-class rugby players are leaving their mouth-guards at home to embrace the healing benefits of yoga and Pilates.
With just two weeks to go before the most anticipated tournament in European rugby, the race is on for players from all six teams to be in the best shape possible. It's no wonder - the 2013 RBS Six Nations is set to be tense, with some of the world's greatest and biggest players locking horns for the win.
Rugby is a notoriously high-contact sport and injuries are part and parcel of being a professional player. It's not unusual for players to keep going through bleeding noses, torn ligaments and even broken bones and for this reason, their physical and mental resilience must be super-human.
As well as working through rigorous programmes of cardio fitness, muscle training and nutritional therapy, players must also find ways to minimise the threat of injury during play.
Surprisingly, the key to physical resilience has been found in the Eastern practices of yoga and Pilates, both of which have become increasingly popular among rugby players in recent years. The slow, low-impact nature of both practices work by strengthening small postural muscles deep inside the body. With rapid directional changes at full sprint, unnatural body positions during scrums and high impact collisions during tackling, flexibility and core strength is the key to minimising injury in rugby. Both Pilates and yoga can help control and balance the body during aggressive play, reducing the risk of damage to joints and bones.
Wigan Warriors RC physiotherapist Emma Fletcher says: "Pilates is a great experience for people of all ages and abilities. It can help overcome weakness, and improvements from Pilates are incorporated into daily life."
The Welsh Rugby Union is one of the many high-profile advocates of yoga and Pilates for sports training.
To find out more about the benefits of yoga and to find a therapist to assist you, please visit our Yoga Therapy page.
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