Yoga for Pickleball Players

I started playing my favorite new sport, pickleball, a couple years ago and am officially addicted.  I've noticed my yoga practice has helped my pickleball game tremendously.  

When my pickleball friends see me stretching in between games, and learn that I teach yoga, they usually laugh and say, "I'm too inflexible to do yoga, but I know I NEED it."  I tell them, "That's like saying I have too many cavities, so I won't go to the dentist!"

EveryBODY can do some form of yoga or stretching.  Here are three suggestions for beginning a stretching routine:
  1. Begin slowly and work your way into each pose.
  2. Listen to your body and use modifications when needed.  
  3. Always STOP if you feel PAIN.
Here is a great series of yoga moves that can improve YOU and your pickleball game. Pick and choose as you move down the list or follow the entire routine to get a full body stretch.

Knees to Chest — 30 seconds
  • Lie down and then place your hands on your knees.  
  • Inhale and push your knees away from you as you straighten your arms.
  • Exhale and draw your knees closer to your chest as you bend your elbows.  
  • Keep your hands on the knees while while you continue to inhale and exhale.
  • Always remember to breath through the entire pose, every pose.

Hamstring Stretch and Twist — Three positions for each leg
  • Wrap a strap, belt or towel around the arch of your right foot. 
  • Lift the heel toward the ceiling with a slight bend in the knee if necessary, 
  • Hold for 5–8 breaths.  
  • Then widen the right leg open to the right,.
  • Hold for 5–8 breaths.  
  • Place the strap in the left hand and twist to the left, 
  • Hold for 5–8 breaths.  
  • Repeat on the other side.

Figure Four Stretch Variations — Choose ONE that works for you and hold 30 — 60 seconds

Option 1

  • Lie on your back and place your right heel over your left knee in a figure 4 position.  
  • Flex the top (right) foot.  
  • Reach behind your left thigh and interlace your fingers.  (If this isn't possible, use the strap behind the left thigh and hold with both hands. )
  • Keep your head on the ground with the chin slightly pointing down toward the chest.
  • Hold for 5-8 breaths.  
  • Repeat on the other side. 

Option 2
  • Sit at the front edge of the seat. 
  • Cross one leg over the other. 
  • Gently press the bent knee down toward the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds while you breathe.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Option 3
  • Stand behind a block, chair or table that is hip high.
  • Lift one leg, bend the knee and rest it on the support.
  • Hold for 5–8 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.
Option 4
  • Hold onto the back of a chair while waiting to play pickleball at the gym.
  • Place your right ankle over your left knee.
  • Squat.
  • Keep the arms straight.
  • Hold for 5–8 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Option 5
  • Test your balance with this pose.
  • Place a chair or wall in front of you for support.
  • Stand tall and cross your right ankle over your left knee.
  • Place your hands at your chest.
  • Slowly begin to squat.
  • Hold for 3–5 breaths.
  • Rise up slowly.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Reclined Twist — 20 seconds each side
  • Lie on your back and draw the knees toward the chest.  
  • Release the knees and let them twist to the right.  (If they don't reach the floor place a block or book under them.)
  • Turn your head toward or away from the knees.  
  • Hold for 5–8 breaths.  
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated Twist Variations — 20 seconds each side
  • Sit cross-legged.
  • Place right hand on left knee.
  • Place left hand behind you.
  • Lengthen the spine as you sit tall.
  • Twist from the upper back to your left.
  • Hold for 5 breaths.
  • Repeat on other side.

  • Sit with both legs out straight in front of you.
  • Bend the left knee and place foot inside right thigh.
  • Wrap your right forearm around the left knee or hold the knee.
  • Place your left hand behind you.
  • Sitting tall, twist from the upper back to your left.
  • Hold for 5 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Low Cobra — 20 seconds

  • Lie on your belly with the forehead on the ground.  
  • Bend the elbows and keep them close to the ribs.  
  • Walk the wrists back so they are under the bend elbows.  
  • Firm the thighs so the kneecaps rise off the floor.  
  • Keep the tops of the feet on the floor.  
  • Lift the head, neck and shoulders a few inches off the ground without straining the neck.  
  • Keeping the elbows close to the body hold for 3–4 breaths.  
  • Release the head back down to the mat.
  • Rest and repeat a few more times.

Cat — 20 seconds

  • Find a hands and knees position.  
  • Use a towel or blanket under the knees if they are tender.  
  • Place your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.  
  • Place the tops of the feet on the mat and parallel.  
  • With your fingers spread wide, press into the floor and arch the back up toward the ceiling.  
  • Exhale.  
  • Then return to the tabletop starting position.

Cow — 20 seconds
  • Using the same starting position as Cat, drop your belly and lift your chest.
  • Inhale.  
  • Keep the arms straight and strong and the shoulders over the wrists.

Cow/Cat together — 30 seconds
  • Inhale cow
  • Exhale cat

Cat/Cow Seated Variation — 5 or more times

Downward Facing Dog Variations — 20 seconds

Option 1
  • Start on all fours.  
  • Walk your hands forward a few inches.  
  • Curl under your toes and lift your hips high.  
  • It's ok if your heels don't touch the floor.  
  • Keep the arms strong and legs relatively straight.  
  • Relax the head between the arms.  
  • Breathe.  
  • Come down to all fours when you are tired.  


  • Same as above, but place hands on blocks if shoulders are tight.

Option 3

  • If first two options are not working, try this one.
  • Face a wall.
  • Stand far enough away to reach your hands out and place palms flat on wall.
  • Hinge at the hip.
  • Keep the hands slightly above hip height.
  • Keep both legs straight.

Chair Pose — 30 seconds
  • Stand tall and bend the knees into a high squat.  
  • Place the weight in your heels.  
  • Keep the knees parallel.  
  • Reach the arms forward and overhead or keep them at the chest if shoulders are tight.   
  • Gaze forward.  
  • Hold for 5- 8 breaths.  
  • Stand up and repeat a few times.

Shoulder Stretches — 20 seconds each side 

You can use a pickleball paddle instead of a strap for this shoulder stretch!


Triangle Pose — 20 seconds each side

Try this with a block under the lower arm if your arm does not reach the floor.  
The goal is to create length in the side of your waist, NOT to touch the floor with the butt sticking out.


Tree Pose — Challenge your balance.  Try one or more of these for 20 seconds

Keep the standing leg and hip firm and strong.  Repeat on each side.

Option 1

  • Use a chair under the bent knee for support.

Option 2

  •  Place foot on floor of bent knee leg.

Option 3

  •   Place bent knee against wall for support.

Option 4

  • Place foot against inner thigh (NOT ON THE KNEE) of standing leg.  

Child's Pose Variations 

  • Widen the knees and sink the hips back toward the heels.  
  • If the hips don't touch the heels, that's fine, let them be higher in the air.  
  • Place a rolled blanket or towel under the knees.  
  • If that is still uncomfortable, lift the hips higher and stretch the arms out in front.  
  • Pad the knees for comfort.


Enjoy all the benefits yoga has to offer pickleball players - focus, balance, strengthening, mobility, calming, overall flexibility, coordination and agility.

If you are new to pickleball, check out this link.

Yoga for Healthy Aging blog has great suggestions for stretches as we age.

Up Your Game With Yoga Poses for Pickleball from Pickleball Central.

Yoga for Pickleball and On Court Relaxation by Gale Leach.

Yoga on the Road

Got the summer travel bug?  Remember to add some yoga to your travel days and nights. 

Child's Pose on the road

I encourage my student's to do a little bit of yoga everyday, even (and especially) when they are traveling.  I took a weekend road trip recently in a rented camper van.  I could stand up in the van but didn't have enough room for full sun salutations.  So I did a few yoga poses on my air mattress before and after bed.

Twisting right and left in the van

Happy Baby on the ceiling

It's a great idea to stretch in any way possible when you are on the road.  All of the sitting and holding the body in one position for too long is damaging.  If you can get up every couple hours and stretch, do it.  Set reminders on your phone to stop driving and take a stretch break.  Or, when you are on the airplane, get up and walk the aisle and stretch.  

If you have room in your suitcase or backpack to bring a foam roller or tennis ball, do that too.  You can massage the feet, calves, hips, buttocks, shoulders -- anything that feels knotted and needs some relief.

And no need for yoga clothes, pajamas work just fine in bed, in the tent, in the camper, or on the hotel room or guest room floor.  Yay!

Yoga Retreats Rock!

I recently was fortunate enough to attend a week-long yoga retreat in Yelapa, Mexico with Baxter Bell and his Yoga For Healthy Aging students.  I went as a student, not as a teacher, and that was a real treat.   

Twenty nine of us yoga students attended class in the beautiful Sky Temple twice a day.  Some students were brand new to yoga.  Some were spouses of long-time yogis.  Some of us were teachers.  Some were in shape, some were out of shape, some were in between.  Some were nervous about the experience, some were eager.  The age range of the students was 30s - 70s.  The smiles on our faces here truly represent how we all felt at the end of the week.

The great thing about the type of yoga Baxter Bell teaches is that it is accessible.  Each morning and afternoon I looked forward to class.  I never dreaded marching up the steep stone steps to the yoga platform.  Each class was slightly different.  We always had a healthy dose of meditation, poetry and music at the beginning and end of class.  I practiced deep yoga in a fun, supportive, educational, magical environment.  And guess what, we didn't do any downward facing dogs or sun salutations all week!

The view from the yoga deck at Sky Temple

What did we do when we weren't practicing yoga each day?  We had long conversations with new friends, we hiked on the beach and in the hills, we sat on the beach, we read books, wrote, went into town and shopped, went on mini travel excursions, we talked with the locals, we bird watched, we took photos, we experienced a different culture and pace from our normal lives.  We listened to the waves crashing on the beach.  We sat and stared into space.  We ate and drank.  We chill-axed!  And, we never threw paper in the toilet or drank out of the tap.

If you find yourself dreaming about attending a yoga retreat someday I suggest you find a teacher, program or studio you love.  Find a type of yoga that works for you with an instructor you can imagine learning from for an extended period of time, then...go for it!  Even if you go alone, like I did, chances are, you won't regret it.  You will learn many things from the experience and may even really enjoy it. 

Open your heart to a new yoga experience and see what follows.

Find Your Happy Place

Yosemite, top of Nevada Falls

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” 
― John MuirThe Mountains of California

A couple weeks ago I went to Yosemite.  It was the first time I'd been there since 1999.  A long over due trip.  It was inspiring, awesome, majestic, poetic, breath-taking, jaw-dropping.  The day I got back I booked a reservation for my next trip there.

Nevada Falls

I got my Yosemite fix, but I need to return, soon.  The mountains are my spiritual place.  For some, it's the ocean, for me, it's the mountains.  I moved to the Tahoe area to be in the mountains.  I have a beautiful view of the mountains from my home.  I'm lucky.  But there is something really wonderful about being IN the mountains and not just looking at them.  Experiencing them.  Being present IN nature.

Half Dome from The Tunnel View

While I was hiking a gentleman stopped me and said, every time I pass you, you have the biggest smile on your face.  It was true!  I was grinning like an idiot all along the trail.  I was in my happy place.

Vernal Falls

In our yoga practice we continually try to find a place of peace and presence.  Nature also helps us cultivate inner peace and helps us live in and appreciate the moment. 

And, yoga physically aids us when we are on the hiking trails.  Our practice gives us strength, focus, agility, flexibility, stamina, patience, balance ... and a killer attitude!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ― John MuirOur National Parks

Here's to your happy place! May it be found in nature.

Consider a Cleanse

I'm 8 days into a 21 day cleanse.  This cleanse is a variation that comes from the book: Eating Clean: the 21 Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation and Reset your Body by Valpone.  You can also check out the Netflix documentary called What's With Wheat? on a similar topic.

Through the years I've seen friends and family members try different cleanses and I always thought they seemed too difficult or too weird to try.  Or, I just wasn't interested (read: I was threatened). But then recently all the signs were telling me to try one.

What the heck?  I gave birth to my second son WITHOUT ANY MEDS so I can do just about anything, really.

The cleanse I'm doing for 21 days is basically this.

Caffeine (even decaf coffee)
Added sugar
Citrus (except lemons)
Night Shade Vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant)
Pre-packaged foods

1 tblsp of organic apple cider vinegar diluted in 8 oz water with honey/day
Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
Eggs (I added this)
All nuts (except peanuts)
Organic chicken, turkey, fish and beef once/week
Brown rice & Quinoa
Lots of water
Herbal tea
Mineral water
Organic maple syrup, honey

Then, after 21 days I can gradually add in the foods I miss and see how my body reacts. Based on that, I decide if I want to add them in again, and to what degree.

After 8 days I've noticed some changes.  At day 3 all the inflammation left my body, especially my face, fingers and even toes.  At day 3 I started sleeping better.  I have more energy after I eat a healthy meal and don't feel sluggish.  Sometimes I feel too amped, like I'm seeing crisper around the edges of things.  (No, I'm not also on acid.)  Sometimes I feel just odd, and wait for it to pass.  Some days my eyes have dark circles under them, but I'm thinking this will go away.

When I tell people I'm on a cleanse they laugh and say it sounds boring and some even get defensive and say they don't want to do one.  I never asked them to do it with me, but they still feel like I'm challenging them or something.  I'm not.  Really.  It's just something I wanted to try and now I'm trying it.

What does this have to do with yoga?  Well, many of the yoga passages I've been reading lately have forced me to rethink some of my daily and nightly habits.

This yoga thing isn't just about what happens on the mat.  In fact, it's really about what happens off the mat,  and we are forced to ask ourselves - can we carry our yoga with us as we go out into the world, or onto the couch with our nightly habit of red wine, dark chocolate and Netflix?  Our yogic teachings may be telling us to consider a cleanse every now and then and just see what happens. Notice, without judgment.  That's what I'm trying to do, and so far, so good.