When I first walked into a yoga class I scoffed at the idea that I was going to get anything more than some light stretching to loosen my tight sports addicted muscles. In a previous post I explained how humbling yoga made me that very first time. Actually it still does in each and every practice 🙂
What I also learned about yoga, is that it is a perfect complement to sports and athletic training. Many professional athletes incorporate Yoga into their training regimes. Instead of viewing it as just a way to “stretch” tight hamstrings, athletes and coaches are realizing that Yoga has way more to offer for the specific purpose of enhancing the mental and physical states needed for all kinds of sports.
A fellow yoga instructor and dear friend I know teaches the military. Yoga specifically helps by increasing focus, strength, stamina and balancing out heavy duty physical training that can leave soldiers very tight, and prone to injuries.
Yoga does wonders for RUNNERS, triathletes, swimmers, golf enthusiasts, hockey basketball and baseball players, and many other competitive sports. Many OLYMPIC athletes have included regular yoga practice to get the edge they are looking for when it comes to improving focus, concentration, breathing and strength.
5 Benefits of Yoga For Athletes and Sports Fanatics Alike
1. Improves Mental Concentration and Focus:
A more settled breath, means a more settled mind. Each and every time you practice Yoga you are inducing the relaxation response and you train the mind to become more still and centered. Athletes can utilize this method of training the mind to increase focus, concentration and enhance mental states. They say competing is 80% mental or more. Why not let Yoga improve your mental state as you climb those steep hills or power through the last few miles of your marathon run. Its at those most intense times when fatigue begins to play with your mind. Yoga helps you still the mind, and OBSERVE it rather than get pulled into its grip.
2. Improve Core Strength and Integration
Its all about the CORE. How many times have we heard this? I know, but its actually quite significant and relevant in sports. Your core is the center of your power and ability to maintain balance. A loose core, means loose everything. Sports require balance, and alot of co ordination. A strong core helps your upper and lower body’s muscles to work synergistically and in better unison. Yoga is about integration on all levels. The core is one of these levels. Yoga requires a strong core to keep the spine in proper and balanced alignment.
3. Improves Flexibility and Increase Range of Motion:
Increasing flexibility is probably the most well known benefit of Yoga. For athletes this means better slam dunks, home runs and faster pace time. Also repetitive training regimes can cause muscles to become tight and prone to injury. Yoga helps to release scar tissue from over use and repetitive actions. Also getting that golf swing perfected requires a substantial range of motion. Yoga will improve tight deltoids, rhomboids, traps and lats which are all involved in upper body movement.
4. Improves the Mind Body Connection:
Yoga helps us to really get in tune with our bodies. You begin to awaken to subtle shifts in your energy and body. Your awareness of your body gets stronger and this can help any athlete to know their bodies on an even deeper level. Connecting with the body is synonymous with communicating with our bodies. Our bodies give us signals everyday and often if we are not attuned to this language we will ignore pertinent information. Yoga helps you to really LISTEN to what your body needs, and desires.
5. Helps Prevent INJURY- the Nemesis of all hardcore training athletes
Improved flexibility means less stains, sprains and torn ligaments and tendons! Every athlete can confirm that injuries are not fun and apart from being physically problematic they are detrimental to one’s mental and psychological state as well . It’s not an easy or wise endeavor to “train around an injury”. Yoga helps keep muscles more flexible thereby putting less strain on ligaments and tendons and joints. Less strain means less stress and a greater range of motion without compromising the integrity of the body.
So get on the mat!
Improve your running time. Increase your speed. Jump higher. Hit farther. All of this with LESS risk of injury. Keep your body healthy and your mind and spirit follow suit.
Keep walking lightly,
till the next asana…..