Yoga for Athletes

April 1st, 2015 | By Marjie No Comments

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What do United States goalkeeper Tim Howard, MLB third baseman Evan Longoria, U.S. figure skater Sasha Cohen, and NBA star Lebron James have in common?

If you said they are the top athletes in their sports, you’re right. But did you also know they are all devotees of yoga? It isn’t hard to recognize that yoga has become something more than a conventional meditation tool. In fact, this 5,000-year-old tradition has now become relevant enough that big sports teams, like the Seattle Seahawks and the United States Soccer team, require that their players include it in their training regime. One reason for this change in perspective lies in the fundamentals of yoga. Quite simply, yoga increases performance and decreases the risk of injury.

It accomplishes this by focusing on the four major contributors to athleticism:

Joint Flexibility. When athletes compete or train for their sports, their joints come under great stress. Yoga helps to deal with this stress by focusing on range of motion, or ROM. Beginners use props like blocks to modify a pose to help open their shoulders, chest hips, hamstrings, and quads. Over time, they will be able to deepen these stretches and condition their joints to have an extended ROM, decreasing the chance for a joint injury.

Stamina. Stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones is the key to maintaining good muscle balance. Yoga includes a variety of poses that rely on holding your bodyweight with dynamic movement. This leads to increased endurance and a strong core.

Controlled breath. In yoga, athletes will train the body away from short, shallow breaths and toward complete, deep breaths that use the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing maximizes energy flow, releases feel-good hormones and endorphins, improves the quality of sleep, and massages the organs. In addition to that, diaphragmatic breathing reminds athletes to focus on the present, and disregard future and past worries. Being able to access a clear and stable state of mind is invaluable for reducing performance anxiety and improving concentration.

Balance. Yoga improves balance through proper alignment. Maintaining the proper form for all poses, from the easier ones to the more advanced, is one of the things that is emphasized in a yoga class. Athletes will be able to increase their concentration levels and improve their form. Having improved stability will keep you safe while you compete, whether you’re facing hard tackles or off-balance landings or difficult catches.

If you are a competitive athlete, incorporating yoga into your workouts should be a priority. You’ll increase your flexibility, build strength, improve concentration, and develop balance. Your game will improve and you’ll be less likely to be injured.

What are you waiting for? Namaste!

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