Yoga has been around for thousands of years, improving balance, flexibility, and endurance of its followers. As it grows in popularity, it has been embraced by more and more athletes and top performers. No longer is it just for women in yoga pants or hippies. If you consider yoga to be a waste of time compared to lifting weights, you’d be wrong. Yoga has been proven to benefit athletes across the board.
Yoga is more than a strength and stretching workout. Your physical state is deeply influenced by your mental state. By connecting mind and body, yoga can improve not only your health but also your mental acuity and focus.
Yoga isn’t intended to replace conventional training, but to enhance it. Yoga improves and strengthens aspects of your body that other types of workouts can’t accomplish. By incorporating yoga into your workout routine, you can make all your other workouts and competitions more effective.
If you’ve ever been skeptical about the benefits of yoga for the athlete, now may be the time to reconsider. The benefits of yoga extend beyond those of any particular sport. From ultra-marathoner to football player, yoga can improve your training and performance.
Yoga is more than just stretching. Yoga asanas(poses or postures) are designed to improve strength, endurance, and stability by tapping into underdeveloped muscle groups and encouraging full body alignment. By strengthening more muscle groups and improving muscle mechanics, the body is capable of transmitting more force and strength across the board. Whatever your sport, proper alignment and core strength will allow you to hit harder, run faster, or throw more efficiently.
Balance and coordination are tied directly to your ability to control how you move your body. The better you can control how your body moves and reacts, the easier it will be to improve your technique and form regardless of your preferred sport. Yoga improves body-awareness, allowing you to move and adjust more freely.
All athletes perform movements or series of movements, whether it’s running long distance, throwing a ball, or dodging competitors. By improving flexibility, athletes can compete these movements with greater range of motion, with more efficiency, and with enhanced muscular strength.
An integral part of yoga is learning to control your breathing and respiratory functions. These practices can improve your lung health, as well as circulation and digestion. Improved lung function allows the athlete to use each breath more effectively, increasing their energy and improving their endurance.
Preventing injury is a number one priority for all athletes. The improved flexibility, balance, and body-awareness that yoga encourages can dramatically reduce your risk of injury, allowing you to train harder and more consistently.
Stretching and relaxing muscles encourages circulation and muscle repair more efficiently than resting alone. On recovery days, adding yoga to your schedule can help improve the speed of your recovery and allow you to get back on the field faster.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of yoga for the athlete is the mental focus and clarity of mind through savasana. Yoga is beneficial for improving strength and flexibility, but what distinguishes the Olympic champion from those who simply compete? Not their strength of body, but their strength of mind.
The mind, like a muscle, can be trained. Meditation helps connect the body and spirit, allowing you to control the impulses and clutter from your mind. Learning to push out distractions and focus on the job at hand can improve your performance wherever you compete.
The consensus is clear. Yoga is becoming an indispensable training tool for athletes of all sports and abilities alike.
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