If like me, you have a passion for sports, be it weightlifting, boxing or running you’ve probably thought of yoga as simply “stretching”. And if you’re not naturally flexible you might cringe at the thought of holding ‘ballerina-like’ poses for a whole hour. But the reality is that yoga is far more than just “stretches” and it can make every form of training we do more effective and efficient. In my experience, a regular yoga practice can give you the following benefits and more: 1. More Flexibility First, let’s talk about stretching, the most generalized idea of what yoga is. The greatest power and efficiency in any sport comes from a balance of strength and flexibility. To reach our full potential as athletes, we have to build balanced strength in all of the different muscle groups. Stretching our muscles makes them more effective at extracting and using more oxygen faster, resulting in increased muscle strength and endurance. At this point you may be thinking: “Well this is great, but really I’m too stiff to do yoga.” As a teacher, I’ve heard this countless times. But the reality is the opposite: the tighter we are, the more we can benefit from yoga. Honestly, see your stiffness as a perk. The tighter we are, the easier it is to experience a stretch and the quicker we can benefit from the practice. 2. Better Endurance By linking breath and movement, yoga significantly increases respiratory capacity, enhances circulation, digestion, and efficiency of movement, all of which improve energy and endurance. 3. Increased Stamina Because yoga helps us achieve optimal alignment, it will improve our dead lifts and power cleans, improve our running pace and efficiency, and help us punch, jump or throw more explosively. What’s more, many yoga poses—particularly standing poses, balancing poses and inversions— require sustained isometric contractions of many large and small muscles which builds a lot of strength in both internal and external muscle groups. 4. More resistant to injuries Yoga significantly reduces the risk of injury and makes our muscles more resistant to trauma by improving body mechanics, flexibility, mobility and awareness. It strengthens muscle groups that are often ignored, particularly stabilizing muscles that we use for balance and power. 5. Faster Recovery Since it improves circulation and lymphatic flow, yoga allows muscles to process metabolic byproducts more quickly, powerfully speeding healing time and re-growth. In other words, it helps with the muscle soreness we experience after exercise, also known as DOMS. 6. Improved Focus Last, but definitely not least, regular practice enhances clarity and focus. As Ultraman world-champion Rich Roll states, “When you look at the highest level of sport, all athletes are incredibly talented and train extremely hard. So what distinguishes the Olympic champion from the rest? The mind.” Yoga provides the awareness and mindfulness needed to make the most out of your training. Some yoga practices are more athletic, fast-paced and intense while others are more meditative and relaxing. It is important to find what fits with your body and compliments your training. Also be sure to find an instructor you like; if a teacher’s style doesn’t match yours it could limit your experience. Take your time to do your research, meet different teachers, have them describe their style, and remember that if one doesn’t fit, there are plenty of others out there. With consistent practice you too can experience better performance, improved health and greater peace of mind, whatever your sport and whatever your degree of flexibility.
Namaste, Michelle Quiroga, LPC, RYT American Licensed Professional Counselor Registered Yoga Teacher 200hr Reiki II
(2019, January 22). 6 Athletic Performance Benefits of Yoga & How to Achieve Them. Retrieved from https://www.onnit.com/academy/6-athletic-performance-benefits-of-yoga-how-to-achieve-them/
Bauman, A. (2007, August 28). Is Yoga Enough to Keep You Fit? Retrieved from https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/is-yoga-enough-to-keep-you-fit