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As the title suggests, this book is intended to teach athletes how to enhance their performance with yoga. Author Sage Roundtree, a distance competitor herself as well as a registered yoga teacher, makes the point that yoga can help to make good athletes even better by encouraging flexibility, fostering strength, increasing balance, preventing injuries, and improving mental training. In Part 1, Roundtree offers a general overview appropriate for those new to yoga. In creating a book on yoga for athletes, the temptation would be to focus on the physical practice of yoga only, or what is commonly known as hatha yoga in Western culture. However, Roundtree does an excellent job of providing a brief but thorough introduction into yoga history and philosophy in order to provide some foundation and context for the practice. She also answers common beginner questions on issues such as what props are needed, what to wear, and how to find local classes.
In Part II of the book, Roundtree presents the postures, or asanas. This section features wonderful, full-color illustrations of Roundtree herself as well as models Michael and Amanda Lovato, husband-and-wife professional triathletes. Roundtree does an excellent job of breaking down each pose in detail, using plain, down-to-earth language. She also provides visualizations on the wrong way to perform the postures, which can be extremely helpful. Roundtree organizes the book by introducing the postures in the same order that they would be presented in a practice session. She begins with warm-up poses such as simple seated postures and twists, then moves on to standing balance poses (including one that is more traditionally considered to be an arm balance, crow or crane pose). Standing poses follow: here Roundtree includes classic standing postures such as triangle and warrior postures, revolved versions of these poses, and additional standing balances such as warrior three pose and half moon. Next Roundtree introduces the Sun Salutation series. This was the one instance where I found her sequencing to be bit odd, as sun salutations are usually used to warm the body up more towards the beginning of most yoga practices. As she does elsewhere, Roundtree provides clear, precise instruction which includes suggestions of modifications for those who are less flexible. She then moves into specific areas of body focus, offering poses for shoulder stretches, chest openers/backbends, core work, front body openers, and lower leg stretches. The final chapters of Part II provide additional twists, gentle inverted postures, and relaxation and closing.
Again, rather than simply to concentrate on the asanas, in Part III, Roundtree provides a very nice introduction to breathwork (pranayama) and meditation. She teaches increased breath awareness through controlling both the placement and the tempo of the breath, and she then reviews some basic pranayama techniques. She also talks about how the breath can be used in specific sports, including swimming, cycling, and running/winter sports. For the meditation chapter, Roundtree similarly presents several simple meditation strategies, including still meditation, moving meditation, mantra meditation, and chanting.
The final part of the book provides athletes with specific information on how to incorporate yoga into their training plans. Using runners and triathletes as examples, Roundtree talks about how yoga might be incorporated throughout the series of training mesocycles. Finally, she offers various routines which can be used for home practice. Each routine has a specific focus--for example, warm-up, core strength, strength-building, or emphasis on problem areas such as shoulders, chest, hips, and hamstrings. Each sequence also features names and thumbnail illustrations of all the poses included (page numbers are given as well so that readers can refer back to the full descriptions of the postures if necessary). The book concludes with a bibliography of various helpful references, from other books to podcasts and additional online resources.
Tucked into the back flap of this book is a “Sampler DVD,” a DVD offering two yoga practices intended as warm-up and cool-down routines. This DVD is meant to be a “sneak peak” into Roundtree’s companion DVD of the same name, The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, but it should be noted that the footage on the Sampler DVD is different from the footage on the actual DVD release. However, the Sampler still provides a good taste of Roundtree’s live instruction. The Warm-Up is a 12-minute series which begins with the dynamic warm-up sequence featured in Chapter 20 of the book (i.e., cat/dog spinal work and shoulder stretches). It also contains a Pigeon Pose Flow sequence which includes pigeon pose and head-to-knee posture. The 7.5-minute Cool-Down features the Pigeon Pose Flow sequence only.
This book is certainly likely to appeal to its intended audience of athletes, from hard-core performers to more casual sports participants. Roundtree effectively makes the case that yoga can enhance any training program, and she makes the practice of yoga accessible for virtually anyone. Because this book is so specific to athletes, it may be less suited to a general population. However, I would not hesitate to recommend The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga for use as designed.
© 2008 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.