Yoga is amazing for many things — stress relief, mindfulness, relaxation, and much more. But did you know it can also be an athlete’s secret weapon? Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, or soccer player, yoga is the ultimate cross-training tool to help sharpen your skills and gain that competitive edge. Here’s a look at some of the ways athletes can benefit from incorporating regular yoga sessions into their routines.
Yoga for Balance & Strength
You may think you only need to hit the weight rack to build strong muscles but watch any yogi hold a side plank, headstand, or boat pose and you’ll see why regular yoga practitioners have excellent balance and a well-chiseled physique. Yoga requires some deep muscle work and helps build powerful core strength and balance. Strong muscles and good balance can help benefit any athlete, no matter the sport.
Flexibility & Injury Prevention Benefits of Yoga
It’s no surprise that yoga can help increase flexibility, but there are so many benefits to being flexible that extend far beyond the mat. In one study, college athletes added bi-weekly yoga sessions to their routine and had several measurements taken before and after to determine flexibility. After 10 weeks, significant gains in flexibility were noted, especially in comparison to the group of athletes that did not practice yoga.
Added flexibility can help with range of motion and prevent injuries, giving some athletes a leg up — both figuratively and literally! Soccer players, tennis players, gymnasts, and practitioners of martial arts all use lots of hyper-extensive movements that can benefit from regular yoga.
Yoga for Stress Relief & Recovery
We all know about the stress-busting benefits of yoga for the mind but what about the body? Excess stress on the body is very common in athletes, especially in high-impact sports like running, weight-lifting, CrossFit, and football. When the marathon ends or the game is over, many athletes have pushed themselves to the limit and “left it all on the field.” This is where the recovery phase comes in.
Yoga is a great form of active recovery that can help reduce stress, pain, and even inflammation. Science also suggests that yoga can even help with cellular health by increasing blood flow and hemoglobin levels to allow for more oxygen to reach the cells. Overall, yoga can be a powerful recovery tool, for both the mind and body.
The Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice for Athletes
Between the numerous personal anecdotes from athletes and the science-backed benefits, it’s no surprise that purveyors of pro-sports like the NFL, NBA, and others have added regular yoga routines to the roster. Coaches and athletes everywhere have seen and felt the benefits that yoga can have on strength, balance, flexibility, injury prevention, and recovery. Lebron James himself is an avid yogi and often contributes the practice partly to his success.
Of course, you don’t need to be a professional sports player to reap the benefits of yoga. Whether you run the occasional 5k for charity, ride your bike on the weekends, or just kick the soccer ball around the backyard with your kids, everyone can benefit from yoga!
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