Whether you’re into contact sports, bodybuilding, CrossFit, tennis, or marathoning, a regular yoga practice can help you up your game. This might surprise you as there are various misconceptions about this ancient practice. For example, many people think yoga is solely about stretching. While there is a lot of stretching and extending muscles and connective tissue, the truth is that it’s a multifaceted practice with various options and styles for everyone.
Research suggests that yoga offers multiple general benefits, such as strengthened immunity, lower stress hormones, reduced inflammation, improved mood, and deeper sleep. And there are also specific benefits for athletes. Adopting a regular practice, even a brief one, can help you improve recovery, increase flexibility, cultivate mental focus and resilience, support overworked muscles, and more.
There’s A Reason Many Professional Athletes Turn To Yoga
What do Lebron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Lewis, Kevin Love, and Dwayne Wade all have in common? For starters, they all practice yoga to become better athletes.
Lebron James said, “yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind, and it’s a technique that has really helped me.” He also said that “it is something that can help your balance. I had some lower back problems a few years ago, and once I started to do yoga, it helped them go away. Of course, we can stretch, but stretching only goes so far.” (1)
7 Ways Yoga Can Improve Athletic Performance
1. One-pointed focus
Yoga, in its essence, is a mind-body practice united by mindfulness and cultivating a steady, one-pointed, and sustained focus. This one benefit can be a game changer no matter what your chosen athletic path is.
2. Breathing for better performance
Yoga is breathing, and breathing is yoga. Ancient yogis have known for thousands of years that the breath is a powerful tool for overcoming the body, mind, and emotions. Your breath is your ally if you know how to use it correctly, and yoga can train you to do just that. This is why even Navy SEALS are trained to use yogic breathing tactics such as Sama Vritti (aka Equal Part Breath.) Try it now – inhale deeply from your lower belly for four counts. Hold your breath for four counts. Exhale by bringing your lower belly into your spine for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle as many times as you need.
3. Improved endurance
Athletes know that increased endurance can mean the difference between good and great. Yoga and pranayama (yogic breathing) can help you by oxygenating your entire body. Hot yoga is also an excellent way to train for increased endurance. It’s usually performed in a heated room of up to 105F.
4. Increased body awareness
Regular yoga practice helps you develop what’s called proprioception or body awareness. Your brain can connect to and manage body parts without looking at them. Athletes need strong body awareness to be able to perform at their best.
5. Better balance
Practicing balancing and standing poses in yoga can help you achieve a better balance in your game or activity of choice. Try tree pose (Vrkasana), half moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana), eagle pose (Garudasana), and dancer pose (Natarajasana). Hold each pose for 15-30 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe!
6. Better recovery
If you’re into improving your athletic performance, you probably train hard and intensely. Gentler, slower yoga practices like yin and restorative yoga are a great way to help your body and muscles recover. Make sure to visit this site for their yoga mats ideal for intermediate users and performs best in restorative to moderately paced practices. Slow, deep breathing can also help re-balance your nervous system while increasing the relaxation and regeneration response.
7. Core power
Many yoga poses and sequences can help strengthen core muscles that might otherwise be underused in other exercises or sports. Poses such as plank pose, side plank (Vasisthasana), half moon (Ardha Chandrasana), boat pose (Navasana), and extended hand to big toe pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) are great options.
A final note:
As mentioned before, yoga has evolved from an ancient practice to a multifaceted one with many styles and options. It’s not a one-size-fits-all experience. You can try many different kinds of yoga to find the ones that most resonate with you. If you are looking for a fast-paced style, you can try hot yoga, power yoga, or ashtanga yoga. If you’re looking for a recovery-friendly, gentle path, then restorative or yin yoga are both great options.