Wake Up To The Power Of One
Yoga for High-Performance Athletes and 5 Reasons You Should Do It
We all know the yogi stereotypes: leggings, headbands, light stretching, maybe some acrobatics and chanting… In reality, there’s nothing overly easy-breezy about yoga. In fact, there are some high-power, sweat-inducing, muscle-shaking styles that can take it out of you! Yoga has been stepping into the limelight for athletes as an excellent addition to their fitness regime and we’d like to show you why.
“The quality of the stretch… the level of mental concentration that is gained. These same skills that I used in yoga, breathing and being calm are the same things that I will apply to the football field during big time plays and situations.”
— Dudley LaPorte
Here are the five reasons you’ll benefit from doing yoga as a high-performance athlete.
1. Power and Endurance
Just like the right form for a squat or a deadlift will give you the ability to lift more weight, when your body is in proper form, you’ll be able to apply more power to your movements across the board. Yoga focuses on proper alignment for your body, removing any awkward imbalances you may have, as well as improving posture. Both these things will enhance your overall power and performance as an athlete.
Then, when you add the deep breathing component and breathwork that goes alongside the deep stretches and holds, you’re going to be expanding your lung capacity and therefore your V02 Max. What does that equate to? Increased endurance.
Flexibility is often the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what yoga improves and you’re not wrong to think so. That being said, flexibility is crucial for any athlete. One of our favorite examples is rugby. Not only do players need to be fast down the field, they also need to be agile. To be both requires flexibility.
The other thing flexibility assists with in terms of reaching peak athletic performance is an enhanced range of motion. This is HUGE for sports like golf and tennis where you need to rely on that reach and swing to get you where you need to be and give you the power you desire.
3. Injury Prevention
Here’s another fantastic perk that any athlete will love to hear: You will better prevent injury by practicing yoga (after all, we prefer when rest days are a choice). When muscles have more strength (to help support loose joints like shoulders and knees) alongside increased flexibility and proper alignment, you’ll be able to make all the necessary hard and fast motions your sport requires without hearing that dreaded snap. Yoga also improves body awareness. The better you know your body, the more you understand your own limitations and won’t push yourself beyond the brink. Less injuries is always a win.
4. Stress Reduction and Mindfulness
All that breathing, stretching, quiet time, and body focus equals one thing: Mindfulness. If you don’t know by now, mindfulness has been linked to enhancing athletic performance and unleashing your full athletic potential for a number of reasons. With yoga, you get to know your body intimately as you focus on different and minute movements and stretches. Then, add in deep breathwork and oftentimes intention setting exercises.
You’re setting yourself up with a quiet moment to be in the present while reducing performance anxiety. If you can learn to return to that moment and slow down your breathing during key moments in your games, you’ll start hitting those crucial, high-pressure shots.
Yoga can be a gentle way to start re-strengthening your body after an injury. The meditative aspect makes this especially true if there is some fear associated with it in more high-impact sports such as in rugby or big wave surfing. Speak with your physio about appropriate exercises and styles for the nature of your injury, but don’t be surprised if yoga makes the go-ahead list thanks to the benefits above. The increased blood flow also goes a long way to speeding along a recovery program.
Of course, recovery doesn’t only mean from injury! As you’re well aware, you need to recover from heavy training sessions, too. In accordance with the Law of Cooling Down, yoga offers a fantastic way to work out that lactic acid buildup and reduce your heart rate safety. When it doubt, stretch it out!
Different styles of yoga — from the slow stretch out of Yin to the power of Vinyasa or the heat of Bikram — will hone in on different aspects of your athleticism, so don’t be afraid to try them all out and see what works best for you. Here’s a beginner, 30-minute, breath and flow class for recovery to start out on. Happy stretching, athletes!
“If you want to achieve whatever your highest level of potential in sport is, you need to have that relationship with your body.”— Mara Abbott
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