While it is well known that athletes hit the gym to increase and maintain their strength, many are also turning to yoga to take their performance to the next level. Both professional athletes as well as amateurs can benefit immensely by taking yoga classes designed for athletes which will greatly enhance their athletic ability.
Professional sports teams including those within the NFL and NBA have begun employing yoga instructors to their staff. NBA greats like LeBron James and former legend Shaquille O’Neal have used yoga as part of their training, as have entire teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team.
Let us look at the many ways athletes can benefit from practicing yoga and some of the best poses for gaining and preserving both physical and mental strength. While not a replacement for conventional athletic training, yoga is great for enhancing an athlete’s abilities.
Physical Benefits of Yoga for Athletes
Yoga is a safe and effective way to develop strong and lean muscles throughout your body. Yoga also has the ability to get your body in optimal alignment which can enhance the strength you currently have. Through proper alignment, you will begin to notice that your strength is much more effective and as you explore different yoga poses, you have the opportunity to target specific areas of the body. This can see you gaining muscle in areas such as your arms, legs, back, and core.
Those athletes needing a lot of endurance such as marathon runners will see a dramatic increase in endurance through practicing yoga. Yoga not only increases your respiratory capacity, but also improves circulation and efficiency of motion which can further enhance your endurance. Yoga also allows you to tune into your body which can help you learn to pace yourself better.
Most athletes will benefit from an increased range of motion, as it not only enhances performance but can also prevent injury. Athletes such as tennis players and golfers benefit greatly from being flexible and yoga is a great way to increase that flexibility. Different yoga poses stretch different areas of the body, and by incorporating numerous poses into your yoga routine, you can greatly improve your overall range of motion.
Yoga also helps with balance which can aid both your training and athletic performance. Having great balance allows an athlete to remain upright, thereby allowing their muscles and coordination to perform to their full capability. When an athlete doesn’t maintain balance, their potential strength and energy becomes greatly diminished. Yoga strengthens many of the stabilizing muscles that are often not worked in regular athletic workouts or training programs.
Athletes with intense training programs or engaging in demanding sports can benefit from quiet restorative yoga which can calm down the central nervous system. Yoga allows your body the time it needs between training sessions to adapt to the stress it is placed under during those sessions. Restorative yoga keeps your muscles moving and your blood pumping which in turn reduces soreness and stimulates muscle tissue repair.
Mental Benefits of Yoga for Athletes
Athletes need to be not only physically strong, but mentally tough as well. Yoga is a great way to help you gain the focus needed to perform at your finest level. The breathing and meditative exercises that are practiced in yoga allow you to learn ways of better calming your mind and blocking out distractions. This can be extremely beneficial when performing in front of large crowds and when it is required that you stick to a strict game plan. Remaining focused allows you to use the strength and other physical qualities you possess in the most effective manner.
Decreased Stress & Anxiety
Stress has the ability to throw your whole body into chaos since it can cause headaches, muscle tension and pain, digestive issues, and hormonal imbalance. When stress causes your health or body to not be at its peak, your athletic performance will surely begin to suffer. Yoga is one of the best ways to effectively learn how to manage your stress and anxiety, both of which will allow you to better focus on your performance
Great Yoga Pose Examples for Athletes
This pose has the ability to strength everything from your hands all the way to your Achilles tendon. Those suffering from back pain can ease pain by strengthening the entire back and shoulder girdle. This pose is also great for ankle mobility.
This pose helps strengthen the lower back, something that often needs much attention for athletes since it is one of the first areas that can cause problems. Lower back problems can also lead to tight hips and hamstrings.
This pose energizes the entire body, encouraging both good respiration and circulation. It not only strengthens your upper back but also works the lower body as it targets the feet, hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus.
About TG Phillips
TG Phillips is a nationally-certified fitness trainer, a CA-certified bodyworker, a long-time yoga teacher, and a CA-certified somatic sex educator. His practice incorporates the union of body, mind, and spirit. Learn more about him at www.tgpraxis.net.