Even though yoga is not considered an Olympic sport, at least not yet, the reality is that it already is a big part of the Olympics. Yoga is a fundamental component of the workout routine of many athletes who are striving for gold during these summer games, and it might very well be one of the key factors for them to finish on top of the podium.
It’s no secret that yoga is a great complement for other physical activities and excellent for athletes. Some even think every athlete should do yoga to increase strength, balance, flexibility and mental control. That’s why it comes as no surprise that more and more competitors are taking advantage of the benefits it brings to their discipline. From elastic gymnasts, to big rugby players, they are all bringing the lessons learned on the mat to their respective sports.
These are 5 teams and athletes who practice yoga!
Andy Murray. Tennis Player.
Tennis is considered by many as one of the most challenging sports out there. This, since you can rely on no one but yourself to perform well and a long match can last more than 5 hours. Hence, the importance of being concentrated during the whole game, so you don’t get distracted by the increasing tiredness of your body, nor the frustration after a point lost.
Andy Murray is a prime example of how yoga can help with the mental aspect of the game, as well as the physical part to endure the demanding tennis season. A few years ago he added Hot Yoga to his training program, and has since won a couple of times in Wimbledon and a gold medal in London 2012, a feat he’ll try to emulate in Rio. So it’s quite evident that yoga has worked for him!
New Zealand All Blacks. Rugby.
It might be hard to imagine such aggressive and tough rugby players performing beautifully-shaped asanas on the mat. But yoga is an extremely helpful practice for this kind of sports in which injuries are a common thing. With less tightness in the muscles and better flexibility gained by yoga, it not only reduces the risk of picking up an injury, but it also helps to a faster recovery after the strenuous rugby games.
This sport will make its debut at the Olympics with a reduced version called rugby sevens in Rio, which represents a great opportunity for the famous All-Blacks from New Zaeland. They are firm believers of the benefits of yoga and they actually take it quite seriously. There is no denying that it has greatly helped them; after a long draught before 2011, they’ve become world champions two times in a row.
Who knows? Probably the Haka is even more intimidating when you learn to control your body with yoga.
Evelyn Stevens. Biking.
After long rides and hours spent on a bike, it’s only natural that the muscles of your legs and back need some care. Stretching these areas with a yoga sequence for cycling is something that can benefit professional cyclists who spend most part of their day on a bike.
Early in 2016, Evely Stevens became the fastest female cyclist, when she set a new record riding almost 30 miles in one hour. By now, it won’t surprise you to know that her training program includes yoga. She openly credits her yoga practice with giving her mental and physical strength, which has been a big part of her recent success and something that gives her hopes to get the first Olympic medal in her career.
Kevin Durant. Basketball.
Basketball is a very demanding sport that requires outstanding eye-hand coordination to get the ball in the ring; great awareness to move quickly past the opponents; and good balance to jump higher than anyone else. Well, all these traits can be enhanced for basketball with yoga. Yoga creates the perfect trifecta of flexibility, strength and coordination that every basketball player needs.
NBA champion and gold medalist, LeBron James, is an advocate yogi who has found a lot of success in his career in great measure thanks to its amazing regularity. He rarely misses a game thanks to his training, which of course, includes regular yoga sessions.
USA Women's Soccer Team
Yoga can be a great boost for soccer players. It increases the range of motion to be able to do any kind of trick with the ball; the core strength is vital to win one-on-one matchups in contact sports like soccer; and the pranayama techniques are ideal to gain stamina and keep the legs moving during the 90 minutes of play.
One of the most famous teams in the world for openly attributing their success in big part to their daily sessions of yoga, the US Women’s Soccer Team has gone a long way with their training program. Indeed, as the goalkeeper Hope Solo once tweeted, yoga has gone so far as to “save” the girls from a fatal shooting in Vancouver in 2012. One of the most famous devoted yoginis on the team is the forward Alex Morgan.
By Alberto Güitrón
Alberto G. Güitrón is the Community Manager at BookYogaRetreats.com. He’s a committed yogi and big sports fan with experience in sports journalism. Most of his favorite athletes are yogis, of course.
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