Yoga is a popular form of stretching and exercise that dates back more than 5,000 years. According to the American Yoga Association, yoga literally means “to join or yoke together.” The practice of yoga is based on this definition, as it focuses on bringing together the mind and body. If you’re an athlete, you can benefit from yoga whether you want to improve your game, develop core strength, stretch your muscles or simply relax and unwind.
Yoga is a solid method for developing and improving your core strength. All athletes rely on their core strength for optimal performance and injury prevention, according to Progressive Power Yoga. Your core strength comes from developing toned abdominal, back and hip muscles. Specific yoga postures that can help to develop core strength include the plank and side plank poses, chair pose, tree pose and the four-limbed staff pose.
There’s no question that a regular yoga practice can improve your level of flexibility. Flexibility is another important component for athletes who want to reduce the risk of injury and perform at the highest level. According to “Yoga Journal,” athletes often have over-developed certain areas of their bodies, which can be detrimental in other areas. For example, runners often have strong leg muscles but tight hamstrings, and those involved in shoulder-focused activities such as baseball or swimming may have painful, tight shoulders. A yoga practice can be tailored to focus on and improve your flexibility in your specific problem areas.
All athletes experience pain at some point. According to Progressive Power Yoga, yoga can be a beneficial way of relieving chronic pain through stretching tired or aching muscles. Additionally, yoga’s focus on the mind’s connection with the body can help to relieve pain through meditation, relaxation or certain restorative poses like savasana, or the corpse pose, a resting pose that is typically performed at the end of a yoga practice.
Another benefit of yoga for athletes is improved focus through training your mind and body to concentrate and be mindful during specific poses, especially those that are held for a longer duration. According to “Yoga Journal,” yoga’s emphasis on mental focus can help athletes develop better concentration. In yoga, you learn to block out physical and mental distractions and focus on what you are doing in the present moment. Whether you’re a football player who needs to concentrate on the punt or a swimmer who wants to increase her speed, developing focus is a beneficial skill for all athletes.
While yoga makes muscles and tendons more supple, it relaxes the mind as well. This refers more to the alleviation of stress than the loss of consciousness. Indeed, yoga centers the conscious mind on the poses and their performance, ideally tuning out the distractions and stress factors outside of the studio. Such focus carries over to athletic prowess, as when the pitcher thinks about his technique as opposed to the scoreboard, or when the golfer zeroes in on swing fundamentals without counting strokes.