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Power up with pilates

Spurs do it and AC Milan do it. David Beckham, Brad Friedel and Ryan Giggs owe their long careers at the top to it.

what is it about the muscle-stretching and focused breathing moves of yoga, and its western counterpart pilates, that’s such a hit with footballers?

“It’s not simply improving flexibility,” explains Ray Hassan, yoga instructor with Championship side Cardiff City.

“It reduces injury risk and helps to focus breathing – which in turn assists in maintaining stamina – and also engages and strengthens core muscles.”

The Bluebirds called in Hassan at the start of the season with an eye on ways to keep key players in peak condition for the 46 league and numerous cup matches ahead.

For a side that’s missed out on Premier League promotion at the play-off stages in both of the past two seasons, it was thought that anything that might make players stronger for longer had to be worth investigating.

“I wasn’t sure about the sessions at first,” says City full-back Kevin McNaughton. “But after just a month I felt an improvement. It’s given me an extra half-a-centimetre stretch already. It’s not like the cliché of sitting in tights, stretching and meditating – there’s a great deal of strength work too.”

Aside from stretches that improve a player’s posture, stability and joint movements,

Hassan points out that pilates and yoga can be adapted to suit a player’s specific needs. “Goalkeepers can work on all-round flexibility and target the trunk and spine, whereas forwards, who have a more explosive sprint nature to their game, can focus on their hamstrings – while the overall effect of the sessions speeds up post-match muscle and joint recovery, and so helps meet the demands of a hectic season.” And rest.