Yoga is a key practice not just on it’s own, but to compliment other activities and sports.
Many professional sporting teams and athletes use yoga practice to compliment their training, or include it as a key part of it. If you play sports regularly, trying yoga can boost your performance in a wide range of ways. Yoga will improve your physical and mental state, letting you push yourself to your limit in your training. Yoga can also balance out strength and development that can become imbalanced if you just practice one type of sport. This can also help reduce injury.
Push away any thoughts of yoga just being about flexibility and contorting your body - yoga helps your muscles grow and works parts of your body that are underused in most people’s daily life. It also helps you stretch out any areas of tightness or pain.
Here’s some of the benefits practicing yoga can have for athletes.
1. Improves strength
These repetitive movements can also lead to imbalance in muscle development - as the muscles you’re working gain strength, others stay underdeveloped. An imbalance in muscles can create aches and pains. Practicing yoga can address the muscles that are underdeveloped, restoring balance and creating full body strength for you to utilize in your sport practice.
2. Increases power
The poses you practice in yoga help you to achieve alignment in your body. Proper alignment will increase the efficiency of your bodies movement, and therefore help it generate more power.
3. Improves flexibility
If you play sports often, you might not be a stranger to repetitive movements. Think the way your arms are held in a defensive stance during boxing, or pushing a ball away in a basketball match. These repetitive movements can concentrate tension in certain areas of your body. This tension can reduce your range of motion and hinder your movement. Yoga helps to alleviate the issues created by repetitive movement by releasing tension and stretching muscles that feel overused. This can increase your flexibility, which in turn improves your range of motion and your performance.
4. Increases endurance
Whether running a marathon, rowing, or dancing, all sport and activity requires endurance. Yoga is no different, with a strong focus on breathing and pacing yourself. Focusing on how you breathe while you move your body into different poses requires strength and energy, but it also improves your circulation and respiratory capacity, increasing your endurance and allowing you to be more efficient with your movements.
5. Improves balance
A strong sense of balance is key for any athlete. There are many poses in yoga that can improve your sense of balance, and help strengthen the muscles that stabilise your body. A good balance is a good quality to have to reduce injuries, as there is a lower risk of falls and stumbles.
6. Helps reduce risk of injury
Along with improving your balance, and therefore minimising your likelihood of falling, yoga can help prevent sporting injuries in other ways. When you’re injured, you not only have to sit on the bench and miss out on playing your favourite sport, but it can also affect how often, or how much you can partake in strenuous activity in the future. A regular yoga practice will give you the benefits listed above - which all combined help maintain a healthy physical state. Yoga also contributes to joint strength, a common injury site for athletes.
7. Calms your mind
A strong focus is key for sports. Being able to concentrate at the task at hand, whilst facing external pressure is no mean feat, and mental resilience can mean the difference between success and failure - not to mention to help your mental wellbeing. Yoga will help you in learning to stay focused and composed, even in high pressure situations or when you’re outside your comfort zone.
8. Aids recovery
Yoga is a great activity to practice for some active rest. When you’re pushing yourself in sport, it can be hard to sit and do nothing on days your body needs to rest and recover. Yoga is a great way to actively rest your body from high impact activity, and can relieve any stress both mental and physical, as well as release tension and just generally give you a break.
9. Relieves Stress
Sports performance can put a lot of stress on your body, as well as your mind. You work your body hard to achieve the best performance, and playing sports can demand lots from key organs like your heart and lungs, as well as your bones and joints. Yoga can help to relieve some of that stress in the body, and help your mind relax and de-stress too. Yoga helps to reduce the stress hormones in the body, so after time, you’ll find yourself responding better to stressful situations when playing sports, and actively reducing stress on the body.
If you’re an athlete looking to take advantage of the many benefits yoga has to offer you, this week’s six class program is made for you! The program encompasses five major sports, and also includes a pre-game class to help prepare you for victory.
By Amy Cavill
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