You’ve probably known an athlete who has taken to yoga to improve their balance, flexibility, mobility, strength, or breathing – or at least heard of one who has. There are many reasons for an athlete to practice yoga.
There are a wide variety of benefits that can’t be achieved by any other form of exercise – at least, not all at once. Yoga also perfectly complements a variety of sports and intense exercise regimes, including basketball, hockey, boxing, and weight lifting.
Let’s take a look at how yoga can improve your athletic game and why you should sign up for a class immediately. After all, if Shaquille O’Neil turned to yoga to improve his game, we think you can give it a shot, too.
Benefits of Yoga for Athletes
Here are some of the main benefits of yoga when it comes to athletics, detailing the reasons why many big-time athletes take up yoga in the first place.
- Yoga increases your flexibility. Athletes need the flexibility to have a full range of movement. Improving flexibility is especially helpful for those who play tennis and golf but can be beneficial in any athletic activity. Flexibility also helps to prevent injury so there’s less chance that one will take you out of your game temporarily or even permanently.
- Yoga increases your endurance. High-intensity sports that require plenty of endurance benefit hugely from yoga. Marathon running is one sport that you need plenty of endurance to do and not participating in an activity like yoga that can improve it seems a little silly. Yoga helps you to become a better runner and teaches you to focus on your breathing. You can improve your ability to pace yourself and breathe slower and more mindfully. This allows your body to take in more oxygen and helps you run longer and more comfortably.
- Yoga improves your strength. While weight lifting obviously builds strength, it doesn’t do it in the way that yoga can. As a weight lifter, yoga is great for developing strength as it allows you to build it gradually in a way that you won’t risk hurting yourself. You are also only lifting your own body weight which you will eventually be able to fully support.
- Yoga improves your balance. In the sports world, having good balance is huge. Not only does it maximize your ability to perform well but it also prevents you from falling and injuring yourself. Again, participating in any exercise that can prevent you from injuring yourself is essential when one injury can take you out of your profession altogether.
- Yoga improves stability. Stability goes hand in hand with balance and yoga helps prevent you from hurting yourself as an athlete by allowing your body to become more stable. Yoga strengthens the muscles that don’t get worked on with other forms of exercise. This helps protect areas like your spine, which are susceptible to major injury.
- Yoga helps improve your core strength. There is no athletic activity that doesn’t need your core. Having a strong core allows you to perform better in any physical activity you try. Yoga heavily focuses on this area. Very few poses do not strengthen your core in some way.
- Yoga aids in recovery. Not only does yoga help prevent your body from injuries but it can also help you recover quicker. Gentle yoga is often prescribed to athletes after injuries due to its quick healing abilities. Yoga works on elongating your muscles which may have been injured because they were overused or overworked. Elongating your muscles is a great way to combat this and prevent future injuries. Yoga also helps provide immediate relief to sore muscles.
- Yoga encourages a healthy mind. While having a healthy mind is essential for daily living, it is definitely beneficial for an athlete. A healthy mind improves your focus and concentration and minimizes stress and anxiety. Athletes can be put under extreme amounts of pressure and yoga reminds them to stay grounded.
3 Essential Yoga Poses for Athletes
Looking for a few select asanas that are recommended to athletes in general? Here are some poses that greatly benefit your balance, flexibility, mobility, strength, and breathing:
1. The Bridge Pose
The Bridge Pose is great for fixing poor posture by realigning the spine and improving your core strength and helps develop the muscles around the spine that are essential for preventing injury. This pose also corrects the posture of those who find themselves slouching forward and rounding their shoulders.
2. The Dolphin Pose
The Dolphin Pose stretches and strengthens your entire body. It is especially great for stretching the upper back and shoulders while simultaneously working on your hamstrings, calves, and foot arches. You’d be hard-pressed to find any sport or athletic activity that wouldn’t benefit from the Dolphin Pose!
3. Reclined Easy Twist
Do you have back tension from a strenuous workout? Try the Reclined Easy Twist. This asana allows you to take some of the tension off of your back and neck as well as strengthen your core and torso muscles.
It’s also perfect for calming your mind and reducing anxiety and can be quite relaxing to sink into. When it comes to whether or not you should practice yoga as an athlete, we think that’s a no-brainer. Your athletic performance can truly only benefit from an increase in balance, flexibility, mobility, strength, and breathing more effectively.
Final Thoughts on Yoga for Athletes
If you’re looking to take your game to the next level (whatever your game may be), consider giving it a shot. If you’re looking to try yoga as a way to heal an existing sports injury, speak to your coach about setting you up with a trainer who specialises in this – you will not be disappointed!