Hawkeye tennis turns to the mats — yoga mats, that is


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Iowa’s men’s tennis team performs yoga sessions once a week after practice at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex. The Hawkeyes started doing yoga during the 2009 season but ceased the sessions in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Junior Michael Swank was one of the players who encouraged his coaches and teammates to bring back the post-practice yoga sessions last fall.

“I took a yoga class last fall at Iowa and I loved it,” Swank said. “I thought the stretching and flexibility would be really beneficial to our team along with the other things that go into yoga.”

The Hawkeyes perform two types of yoga called ashtanga and vinyasa. Ashtanga and vinyasa are types of yoga that focus on posture and breathing techniques. The goal of these forms of yoga is to synchronize breathing and body movements. There’s a lot of movement in vinyasa yoga but there’s no set routine that the instructor has to follow.

Graduate student Mia Richter conducts the yoga sessions weekly with the Hawkeyes. Richter used to play college tennis at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. She works at Underground Fitness, 506 E. College St., as a personal trainer as well as a yoga and Palates instructor.

Yoga is beneficial for tennis players because it improves their coordination and flexibility.

Additionally, yoga improves player’s body symmetry, which is the left to right balance for an athlete.  

“In a sport like tennis, where one side of the body is dominantly used, it is important to spend time addressing this naturally occurring balance via a structured stretching routine,” Richter said. “Spending time to address this asymmetry allows for the men to stretch their non dominant sides so that they function at their peak.” 

The yoga sessions help players keep their bodies fresh during this grueling three-month season, where the Hawkeyes practice from 1:30-3:30 four times a week. Iowa captain Garrett Dunn said the yoga sessions help his body recuperate after a tough week of practice and stay loose for upcoming weekend matches.

Yoga also helps prevent the body from sustaining injuries. During a tennis match, players are in constant motion running side to side and occasionally charging the net. Players make long strides and have to be very flexible in order to cover all sides of the court effectively.

“You need flexibility to be successful around the court,” Hagan said. “Yoga definitely helps with flexibility and being more relaxed on the court. I can notice a difference when I do yoga, I’ll feel more loose and relaxed than I would if I didn’t do it.”

The yoga sessions seem to provide the Hawkeyes with an enjoyable team bonding experience. During their session on Wednesday, there were a lot of smiles and laughter while the team was partaking in yoga exercises.

“This group of guys is phenomenal to work with,” Richter said. “They are true gentlemen who work hard and are a great group of guys to be around.”

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