Yoga for Tennis Elbow and Bad Knees

Anastasia Dorohova
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Yoga

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Iím reviewing this workout after previewing it once and doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This approximately 40 min. vinyasa routine is meant to strengthen and stretch your body, focusing primarily on the upper body. While Anastasia emphasizes the benefits tennis players will receive from specific poses, this practice can be used by non-tennis players.
The practice begins with Om and pranayama. The moves include childís pose with arms extended (with a few variations on the position of the arms); vajrasana with cow face arms, shoulder rolls, and reverse prayer; tadasana, with positioning shoulders (using thumbs in the armpits to roll the shoulders back) and side bends; several rounds of sun salutation A, with a jump back to chaturanga, upward facing dog, and then holding downward facing dog before finishing the salutation; a slower sun salutation where chaturanga, upward facing dog (with head rotation side to side), plank, lowered chaturanga, and locust (one leg at a time and then both), are held for several breaths each; after a quick rest while prone, the rest of the sun salutation and then raising up onto the toes with arms extended overheadóthis moves into a sequence where you move between this pose and a squat while staying on the toes; another round of sun salutations into warrior 1 with chaturanga-down dog-up dog in between; several rounds of sun salutation B (with chair pose) and then a salutation with warrior 1 into warrior 2 into triangle into side angle pose into warrior 2 with vinyasa flow in between; from tadasana into warrior 3 (modified); then switching gears to handstand prep with feet up the wall; full handstand (kicking up from down dog); childís pose; virasana, moving into twists; downward dog; paschimottanasana; and reverse table top. It ends with a 5-6 min. savasana. After another Om, Anastasia has you stretch, bring your knees to your chest, and then slowly rock up to sukhasana, where she leads you through a few more breaths and offers some final words.

Level: Iíd recommend this to an intermediate exerciser with a good amount of strength, flexibility, and prior yoga experience, since Anastasia doesnít explain a lot of basics when it comes to the poses. Someone practicing yoga below the beginner / intermediate crossover point would find this too overwhelming, especially when it comes to the handstand (no modifications are offered besides the handstand prep); on the other hand, someone whoís at the high or perhaps even solidly intermediate point in their yoga practice would probably find this on the easy side and miss some of the other intermediate poses. Iím an intermediate exerciser making the transition into low intermediate in yoga; Iím still working on flexibility and strength after 3+ years of yoga practice and working up towards moves like handstand, headstand, crow, etc. This practice is challenging for me but doable, especially if I modify the handstand by staying in the down dog variation or doing dolphin.
I'm no tennis player (an expensive coach once pronounced me "hopeless"), but I do have a bad elbow (broke it as a kid) and a bad knee (kneecap slipped out due to weak quadriceps 5 years ago), so that's why I got this video. My bad elbow does not like chaturanga, especially chaturanga holds. I need to have time to drop to my knees, which is a little tricky since Anastasia moves quickly through the vinyasa, although she holds down dog for a while, so I have time to catch up. If I had known there would be so many fast sun salutations, Iím not sure I would have purchased this video, but with the down dog holds Iíll just go at my own pace through the vinyasas in the future, making this a non-issue.

Class: Anastasia alone, with instruction via voiceover.

Music: lovely piano music with the sound of waves in the background, as Beth noted.

Set: For most of the routine, Anastasia is on a wooden platform on the beach at a Caribbean resort overlooking lots of blue-green waves. Itís a bright sunny day. For the last part, she moves to a porch corner, with a tennis racket and balls alongside her mat and plants lining the outside edge of the porch. During the savasana there are shots of tropical flowers and other plants.

Production: crisp picture and sound. The voiceover matches the moves well. There are lots of camera close-ups, but overall the camera angles seem helpful. A few times white text runs along the bottom of the screen, telling you to purchase more of Anastasiaís products by visiting her website Ė an unnecessary touch, in my opinion.

Equipment: sticky mat (or equivalent). Anastasia mentions using a yoga block for a few moves but doesnít show one.

Space Requirements: You should be able to do a sun salutation without bumping into things and have a little space to each side. You should also have a clear space against a wall for the handstand prep and full handstand (with enough room to kick up).

DVD Notes: You can choose Play All, Play Yoga (which skips the intro), or Disclaimer. There are no chapters within the workout, which is too bad.

Conclusion: The verdictís still out on this one for me. I like the length of the practice, but Iíll have to see how much my elbow and I like doing the practice itself since thereís a lot of sun salutations in there and of course that handstand. Anastasia may grow on me as teacher, or I may just never get into her style of instructing. She does talk a lot, about as much as Eoin Finn does, although I donít feel that her words flow quite as well with the poses as with more experienced yoga instructors. She is silent during the savasana, though, and I definitely need a long, quiet one after that routine! She breathes a little fast for my liking, but I just go at my own pace there. I will say that I felt that my posture was very good for the rest of the day after doing this video, with my shoulders not slouching or rounding forward.
Benefits for tennis are mentioned frequently, but I like that Anastasia tends to highlight physical and mental benefits rather than tell you a pose will cure cancer or prevent wrinkles or something of that sort. Also, Anastasia doesnít lead you in chanting, so you can join in or not depending upon your inclination.
I donít know enough about tennis elbow to say whether or not this video would help that condition. My hunch is that this might be better to prevent rather than to treat, but donít take my word for it: talk to your regular yoga master and/or health care provider. There isnít as much as I expected for the knees, but poses like warriors 1 and 2 have helped me build strength in my legs and raised my awareness about my posture and alignment; this has helped prevent my previous knee injury from recurring. With so many down dogs and chaturangas plus handstands, this is one to avoid for those with wrist issues. (If you donít normally do vinyasa yoga, itís probably worth double checking with your doctor, physical therapist, and/or live yoga instructor if you have elbow or shoulder problems, too.)
I like that Anastasia consciously focuses on opening the shoulders, rightly claiming that helps reduce tension in the elbow, yet she includes few hip openers, which offer the same benefits for the knees. Also, if I were Anastasia, I would rename this workout ďYoga for a Strong Tennis ServeĒ since this definitely has more for the upper body than lower, as Beth already pointed out.

Instructor Comments:
Anastasia is a Jivamukti-certified instructor and former ranked junior tennis player. She has a pleasant personality thatís not too perky. She has an accent and a distinct manner of speaking, but within a few viewings youíll be used to it. Her language threatens to get a little flowery (but not really spiritual) at a few points, but generally she focuses on cueing the yoga moves and pointing out the benefits of poses. The emphasis is on strength and flexibility for tennis, not burning fat, toning your backside, etc. Anastasia gives a good amount of form instruction, although her back doesnít seem to me to be nearly as straight as she says it should be.



This video is instructed by Anastasia, Jivamukti-certified yoga teacher and avid tennis player/consultant. She explains that the practice is designed to help strengthen your elbows and knees as a means to both prevent injury and improve your tennis game. Iím not a tennis player, but I have dealt with ongoing tendonitis in both of my elbows, so I decided to give this video a try. Throughout the practice, Anastasia makes frequent references to how specific poses might help your tennis game; this didnít both me, but it might bother other non-tennis players. Also, ads for Anastasiaís web site, Steady Bliss, occasionally appear on screen.

The practice, which performed outdoors in a scenic ocean-side setting, begins seated with several chants of OM (Anastasia instructs via voiceover throughout). Anastasia then moves into Pranayama (breathwork) and some simple stretches for the shoulders, including childís pose and cow-face arms. Moving to standing, Anastasia performs a side stretch before beginning several series of sun salutations. She moves fairly quickly through the poses but pauses for a few longer holds (e.g., holding upward dog and downward dog for five breaths each). She also adds some non-traditional postures into the classic sun salutation A series, including cobra, half locust, and full locust. After performing several squats on the toes (meant to strengthen the knees), Anastasia moves into several rounds of sun salutation B, adding on warrior 1, warrior 2, triangle, side angle, and then warrior 3 to finish.

At this point, Anastasia moves to the wall (she seems to be on an outdoor patio at this point, as you can still hear the ocean) to practice half-handstand (feet on wall parallel to the floor) and then full handstand. She offers good form pointers during these postures, but I stuck with the handstand prep work. Next comes full heroís pose (buttocks on the floor between the ankles), which Anastasia states is extremely beneficial for the knees. She continues with a twist while still seated in hero, performs a seated forward bend and table pose, and then moves into savasana. During the 5-minute savasana, the soundtrack of relaxing piano music and ocean waves continues, and then Anastasia brings the practice to a close at about 42 minutes total.

Overall, I liked this practice. Although it was a bit more vinyasa-y than I usually prefer (i.e., there were MANY chaturanga to upward dog to downward dog transitions), I could definitely see how this would work to build strength in my elbows (in general, there seemed to be more of a focus on elbows then on knees), and my tendonitis actually felt much better than usual for a day or two after using this video. This is definitely an intermediate level practice which I would recommend for those with a good deal of experience in yoga only; it would be ideally suited to those who participate in both yoga and sports activities, including tennis.

Instructor Comments:
Overall, I thought Anastasia instructed well: she does offer some good form pointers, and her voiceover instruction seemed to match her on-screen performance well. She speaks in an accent but is easy to understand. She has a habit of counting out breaths, which was fine with me but might annoy some.

Beth C (aka toaster)