So we’ve all heard for years that yoga benefits us in many different ways- yet many people, including athletes, don’t participate in any structured yoga programs. It’s all just stretching and breathing exercises anyway… Right? It couldn’t make that big of a difference… Or could it?
The practice of Yoga prides itself on being a mind-body exercise, improving body functions & mechanics, while also focusing on meditation and oneness of the mental mind and physical body. While I personally am not all into meditation and the practice of not thinking, I can definitely see the benefit of focusing your mind on the functions of your body. Feeling your lungs fill with air, feeling the release of a tight lower back, consciously relaxing your eyebrow muscles- it’s amazing what focusing on how your body feels can bring you. Couple that with a positive mental outlook and quick gains, and you might just jump on board the Yoga Train.
But all those reasons to do yoga are the well know reasons, and let’s be honest, I’m here to convince you beyond common knowledge. So what is the real benefit of yoga? Particularly for the already active person? Why add yet another activity to your already crazy fitness and life schedule? Well… Balance. Yoga will bring you balance. Balance mentally. Balance physically. Balance mechanically.
As an athlete- we place demands on our body in planes of motion that deprive our joints and muscles from developing in the full range of motion. Forward motion, lateral motion, posterior motion. As we continue to train in our discipline, our musculature will continue to develop in those planes resulting in tightness, weakness, inflexibility and imbalances in the other planes of motion. These imbalances effect more than you will ever know- posture changes, muscle weakness, core weakness, shortening of muscle fibers, loss of flexibility and ultimately can affect quality of life. Yoga, which focuses on improving flexibility, joint mechanics, posture and core strength, when integrated into an athletic program creates balance. Yoga will improve your joint and muscular joint range of motion, flexibility and ultimately performance. You will feel stronger, experience less tightness and soreness, and will be more in touch with mechanical function which can assist in developing mental toughness.
How do you get involved with a yoga program? Start by checking out your local gym or run store. Most of these businesses will have networks with Yoga instructors or class information. Some will even offer weekly classes or free events where you can give it a try. If that’s not up your alley, you can always go the video route. Some videos are dedicated to the burn… Focused on getting your heart rate up. While this is a great option for someone using yoga to supplement their daily activity, a yoga program focused solely on flexibility and improving range of motion is better suited for an athlete. I recommend Rodney Yee’s Yoga Conditioning for Athletes by Gaiam. This video offers the perfect combination of flexibility, range of motion work, core strengthening and balancing of usually tight/weak muscles associated with sports. Rodney also provides the best yoga coaching cues I’ve experienced. He is able to coach you into a deeper stretch, more release, and better posture with a few simple words.
Put those fears, stereotypes, and the fear of the unknown aside and get after it! Yoga will offer you more than you ever thought possible- all in a short time! Now close your eyes… Breath in… Breath out…