Yoga has long been known for its mental and physical fitness benefits. Until relatively recently, however, many top athletes derided it as “soft” and “earthy,” irrelevant to their hardcore training regimens. Today, however, opinions have changed. As science continues to demonstrate the incredible transformative powers of yoga, more and more high achieving athletes have begun to incorporate it into their workouts. Here is a closer look at the benefits of yoga and how you can use it in your own workout routines.
Top athletes regularly mention “the zone,” or the mental head space that allows them to perform at their best. Two of the eight limbs of yoga are Pratyahara, or control of the senses, and Dharana, or concentration and perceptual awareness. Regular yoga practice helps you learn to focus on a singular goal, accept fleeting thoughts without judgment, and be fully present in the moment. In tandem with Pranayama, or breath control, these aspects of yoga enhance an athlete’s ability to enter and remain in “the zone.”
All sports require you to be acutely aware of your own body and its relative position at all times, and to move deliberately, using the least amount of energy to achieve the maximum benefit. Yoga teaches body awareness and the ability to make subtle adjustments as needed to gain optimal functioning. Whichever style of yoga you choose, working through Asana, or physical expression through poses, will help you turn your focus inward and become more aware of why and how you move.
Stretching out before and after each workout is absolutely critical to minimizing injuries and maximizing performance. Many yoga routines focus on stretching and lengthening the smooth muscles, creating optimal flexibility. Classical Sun Salutations are particularly useful for stretching and flexibility, while the Corpse Pose is a dynamic way to end a tough workout session. If these poses do not fit your style, yoga offers numerous other options. Focus on routines that encourage gentle lengthening rather than sharp, sudden movements and changes of direction.
Repetitive use injuries, sprains, strains, tears, and other injuries are all too common among athletes. While it is impossible to completely remove these risks, improving your strength and flexibility can dramatically reduce your chances of being injured. This is especially true for “weekend warriors,” who sit at a desk all week and then play sports on the weekends. Incorporating a regular yoga routine into your daily life can align your body and ensure optimum fitness.
Your core muscles are responsible for maintaining your body’s alignment even when performing difficult or complex movements. The stronger your core, the more efficient you will be as an athlete, and the less likely you are to be injured. Many different yoga poses and styles build core strength, making it easy to incorporate yoga into your regular workout. The Cat-Cow, Downward Dog, and other balance positions are particularly good choices for building your core strength.
A hard hitting, gym based style of yoga that debuted in the United States during the 1990s, power yoga is the antithesis of the slow, gentle stretching that many people think of when picturing yoga. Many top athletes find that regular power yoga practice during the offseason helps them maintain top fitness levels. Note that power yoga requires a high overall fitness level and good health. If you are a beginner, it is generally best to start with a gentler form of yoga and then progress to power yoga as you build strength, stamina, and overall health.
Authored by Megan Kaplan, Community Coordinator of Centered Yoga. Established in 1999 by Paul Dallaghan,Centered Yoga is fully affiliated with the prestigious Kaivalyadhama, a research institute in India dedicated to studying yoga from both classical and scientific viewpoints. When you feel ready, we invite you to start your journey to becoming part of this distinguished legacy by submitting your application for the 200 hour level residential training.
*Feature photo is from a previous Semper Sarah Retreat in Costa Rica, one which was filled with athletes and yogis alike! 🙂
Are you curious about how to harmonize your health goals and do so by integrating yoga into your lifestyle?
Then you’re going to love what I’m doing in Costa Rica next summer! Join me, Sarah Plummer Taylor MSWc & RYT500, and Lisa Theis, RYT500, for the next Align & Shine rest, restore, and play retreat for women in 2016. This is the 6th retreat I’ve lead, and the third of which Lisa has co-taught. We love holding space for you on your journey. <3
Check out the ALIGN & SHINE RETREAT FOR DRIVEN PROFESSIONAL WOMEN 18-24 June 2016