Yoga for Rowers is the first book of its kind – written for rowers and showing how to take proven techniques from the mat onto the water.
Ben Argyle from Cambridge 99 Rowing Club and his yoga teacher fiancee Kris K, who apparently benefited from the book provide us with their review .
Both I (a rower) and my fiancee (Kris a yoga teacher in training) read the book a good few times and tried everything (I’m still aching!). The review’s hers, with input from me.
Book review Yoga for Rowers
Chrys Kozak’s Yoga for Rowers offers a program of twelve postures designed to improve all four parts of a rower’s stroke. These postures, which target balance, strength, and hip flexibility, are regular features of an average yoga class, and Kozak has clearly experienced the benefits of yoga in her rowing. But there are important considerations when practicing yoga as a beginner that Kozak – not a certified yoga teacher, or even with any yoga teacher training listed in her biography – does not discuss that could result in injury.
The poses Kozak suggests are many of the same that I offer the rowers for whom I lead yoga sessions. Improving balance, enhancing core strength, and increasing hip flexibility are key to offering yoga designed for rowers. But Kozak’s sequence lacks the flow and progression that improves both the postures and the overall practice. She moves from standing postures to seated poses to backbends and back again without acknowledging that certain poses can be achieved more fully after practicing other postures.
While this is an issue of maximizing the benefits of the practice, Kozak does make a few key mistakes in her demonstrations. The most worrisome example is her practice of the full Extended Side Angle pose, which is not only an overly advanced for a new practitioner of yoga but also demonstrated in a way that could cause injury. The first time someone practices this pose in a class, the teacher always instructs that the knee should never go beyond the ankle and that the shin should be vertical. This instruction is repeated even in advanced classes: that is how important it is to preventing injury.
Kozak’s illustration (page 22) shows her knee distinctly forward of her ankle so that her hand can reach the floor, even though yoga teaches that one should never compromise structure and safety for the sake of a “better” pose. A better way way for Kozak to have demonstrated this pose is in its beginner’s modification, which is for the lower forearm to be resting on the thigh of the bent leg, and to encourage her audience to gradually work the hand down to the floor as hip flexibility increases. This would have maintained the safety and strengthening of the knee and hip joints while encouraging the opening across the hips, chest and shoulders that this pose offers.
Overall, this book is a useful tool for rowers to harness the benefits of yoga to improve each individual part of the stroke as well as the complete practice of rowing. But to prevent injury and to maximize this improvement, I would recommend only using this book in addition to practicing with a trained teacher who can best assess a rower’s physical condition and offer the necessary modifications for the poses that will best benefit a rower.
Rowers are often in the special position of having excellent strength but limited flexibility: this combination requires special consideration for beginning practitioners of yoga. Bottom line: to prevent injury and maximize the many benefits yoga has for rowers, Chrys Kozak’s Yoga for Rowers should be used as an at-home, rowing-specific supplement to yoga classes taught by a trained teacher.