Yoga for Athletes
Why should athletes do yoga? Yoga can help prevent injuries. Athletes, whether they are an amateur or a professional, can also experience better performance by including yoga practice in their training. In practicing yoga, an athlete builds flexibility along with strength.
Unify Mind and Body
The lungs realize increased capacity with yogic breathing exercises called pranayama. Athletes will also find aerobic benefit from yoga practice that can give them an edge in competition. Yoga helps an athlete’s body deliver oxygen more effectively to the muscles that are doing extra work.
Focus and concentration is developed in yoga, which is also a mental discipline. The yogic practice of Dharana, a Sanskrit word meaning to hold one’s concentration with a single focus, is one of the limbs of yoga. A meditator and the object that is focused on become one. Being trained to do this in yoga brings greater ability to focus to an athlete in sports and other activities, and is very beneficial in athletic performance.
The regular practice of yoga yields increased flexibility and strength. It promotes a greater body awareness that extends to all physical activities. Overall physical balance improves partially due to the cultivation of body awareness. The combination of muscular length, which is associated with the stretching in the yoga postures, and the pervasive moment increase body awareness and decrease the likelihood of injury. Together, these can improve athletic performance.
Doing yoga helps keep you in the game or on the field by loosening, stretching and lengthening your muscles while at the same time opening your joints.
Balance the Body
In most sports, some muscle groups get lots of training while other muscles are ignored, creating a strength deficit in the body. Yoga can work every muscle in the body, correcting muscle imbalances and thus prevent injury. Yoga can also prevent and help alleviate the aches and pains from training. Bodybuilders sometimes become muscle bound and are less able to move around. Yoga gives bodybuilders and other athletes flexibility to complement their strength.
Special programs have been created for various athletic disciplines and sports. For example, yoga for golf is becoming popular. Professional sports teams, like football teams, have yoga teachers on staff. Sports medicine is turning to yoga as a means to rehabilitate injured athletes.
One example of yoga’s effectiveness in preventing sports injuries can be seen in runners who experience painful shin splints. Runners have discovered that poses like the Downward Facing Dog Pose performed before and after running can help alleviate this problem. In the yoga pose, leg muscles are stretched out and balanced. Overall, yoga lengthens muscles and makes them suppler.
Recovery for Athletes
Athletes tend to push their bodies in repetitive training, and sports are competitive by nature. In contrast, yoga is not goal oriented and is non-aggressive. A yoga practitioner learns to work the body in a way that is comfortable, called “effortless effort.” Bringing that quality to sports is valuable. Yoga can provide a refuge from the stress that can be present in competitive training which sometimes involves pushing yourself to your limits. A yoga practice session becomes a place of balancing and wholeness. After doing a regular yoga practice, an athlete can often bring a feeling of lightness and gracefulness to their sport. Yoga is more than a physical and mental endeavor, having spiritual aspects which can also benefit athletes, and this should not be forgotten.