Why Yoga is the Wrench... when it comes to baseball

Jul 27, 2023

For a decade or so, baseball players have been turning to Yoga. Some MLB teams have even incorporated it into their training protocols (LINK and LINK).  Many players claim to have received benefits from doing it. No doubt they have.

Because of the way I warm up prior to my games, my teammates and opponents have assumed or asked if I do Yoga. I do not. There are many reasons that I don’t but the main one is because there is something better.

Better than Yoga? 

Yes, but before going into why, it’s important to note that there are many forms of Yoga and many reasons why someone may engage in its practice. For the purposes of this discussion, we will be referring solely to the primary reason it’s considered for baseball players: mobility / flexibility. (For completeness, practitioners will argue that there is a strength benefit gained even when flexibility and mobility are the goals due to the ranges of motion attempted in the various poses.)

A Hammer or a Wrench?

If you want to drive in a nail, you can likely do it with a wrench, but the job is more easily and efficiently accomplished with a hammer. The hammer was designed for this.

Yoga, as it is commonly known, is performed for general physical fitness, mindfulness, weight loss, mobility and flexibility, body sculpting, conditioning and so on. It was not designed to make baseball players better, more flexible or mobile.

When determining which tool to use, the hammer or the wrench, assess the goal of the activity. What are you trying to accomplish?

Mobility and Flexibility

Increased mobility and flexibility is the goal. So, why not Yoga? Because Yoga is the wrench, not the hammer. It will get the job done, but there’s a better tool, a better way.

When there's a drop in performance on the field, an increase in recovery time, or injuries, many players conclude that their “tightness” or “stiffness” is an indication that they are inflexible or immobile. However, they are overlooking some considerations.  Once these things start to happen, they examine their physical condition and realize that they have less range of motion, reduced strength and poor aerobic capacity. The response to this is often to start working out - typically lifting, stretching and running. Benefits from lifting and running are nearly immediate, obvious and invigorating. The reaction to stretching, much less so and in turn is either abandoned or used only to get “warmed” up for the other activities.

Turn to Yoga?

Rarely is the actual cause of these issues of performance drop, increased recovery time and injuries considered or pursued. They're usually written off as aging and/or a lack of working out.

The real reason, In nearly every case, is that their lifestyle does not contain enough movement.

Move More!

The solution is simple. Move more. You feel stiff and tight because you stopped moving. Your body has adapted to the demands or lack of demands you’ve placed on it. If you only move in small ranges of motion when you do move and you don’t move often then your body will adapt to that. Then, when you ask it to move in larger ranges of motion, powerfully like you would playing baseball, it will either refuse (reduced performance) or try and fail (injury). If you avoid injury, your body will need some time to recover from your attempts to move in a way it wasn’t prepared to do.

At some point in your life you were flexible and mobile enough to perform well on the baseball field. Were you doing Yoga then? Probably not. Are you no longer flexible and mobile because you stopped doing Yoga? I doubt it. Not doing Yoga isn’t the reason you feel stiff and immobile, therefore, doing Yoga isn’t the answer.

Your Natural Capabilities

Human beings are capable of a multitude of physical skills, such as sprinting, jumping, swimming, throwing, lifting, swinging, balancing, climbing and so much more. Engage in some of these (or similar) activities consistently throughout your days and you will swiftly become more mobile and flexible. Spend more time sitting on the floor, squatting, standing or walking and your capabilities will return as will your performance on the field.

Put down the wrench; this is your Hammer.

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