I never understood the popularity of Yoga and to be honest I didn’t consider it to be a “real” workout option. Everything changed when my wife gave me her birthday wish list. Item number one was going to her Yoga class with her. It was one of the longest hours of my life. I could barely maintain any of the poses and found myself drenched in sweat afterwards. My wife thoroughly enjoyed giving me the "I told you so" look and watching me struggle through the session couldn't have been a better birthday gift for her. Who knew stretching and holding a Yoga pose could be so exhausting? It was an awakening of sorts and I now try to bring Yoga into my workout mix whenever I can.
Any athlete in any sport can benefit from practicing Yoga. Many professional athletes already do including LeBron James, Tom Brady, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Russell Wilson and Victor Cruz just to name a few. Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Winning Coach Pete Carroll requires all his players do Yoga during the NFL season. Yoga has many benefits. The following is a short list for athletes:
- Increases Flexibility
There is absolutely no doubt that Yoga improves flexibility. More flexibility in your muscles and joints leads to a greater range of motion which can help reduce your chances of injury or muscle strain. A greater range of motion can also help an athlete perform more effectively. A hurdler in track and field can be more efficient through better elasticity. A swimmer can improve their stroke by being able to push more water with their hands and legs through increased flexibility.
- Builds Core Strength
Strength in your abdominal and back muscles is essential for almost all physical activities. Core strength is very important particularly in basketball where back injuries are quite common. LeBron James credits Yoga with helping to eliminate his back pain on the court. Some Yoga poses that help build core strength include Crocodile, Plank, Warrior and Chatarunga.
- Improves Balance
Balance is crucial for many sports, but Football absolutely requires it. Running backs, receivers, linebackers and linemen all need good balance in order to block or avoid being tackled. More balance means more body control and that translates well into any sport. Yoga poses that are good for balance include Tree, Warrior 3 and Half Moon.
- Reduces Stress
When performing your muscles need oxygen and mastering a proper breathing technique is harder than you think. You’d be surprised how many athletes forget to breathe or breathe improperly during a full sprint. Because Yoga places a great deal of emphasis on proper breathing it helps maintain a lower resting heart rate. Better blood flow can reduce stress and help athletes get a better night’s sleep. Reduced stress can also boost your immune system. Proper breathing technique helps in any sport, but good distance running requires it.
- Improves Concentration
Much of Yoga involves meditation and concentration at the end of a workout through the Shavasana or Corpse Pose. This level of meditative cool down is excellent for improving focus. More than half the battle for most athletes occurs in the mind not the body. Once you master your mind your body will follow. Focus and concentration are extremely helpful for athletes as well as in everyday life. Distractions are plentiful and Yoga can help you focus.
Every athlete is looking for an edge and it’s no secret that Yoga can give you that edge. You don’t have to wear the pants just try it for a couple of weeks and you’ll find you can do things on the field or the court that you couldn’t do before. You’ll also be less prone to injury because of your newfound flexibility!