Yoga is gaining increasing popularity in the athletic world, as more and more high level athletes are integrating yoga into their routines. The benefits are endless, but to make a long story short... Yoga can increase performance, and here are a few reasons why.
1. Yoga Increases Flexibility, and Flexibility Increases Power
Athletes have a tendency for muscle imbalances, due to continuous, repetitive movements. Tight muscles does not mean, strong muscles. And our bodies are truly only as strong as our imbalances. Yoga can help athletes become more flexible, but more importantly it can help them develop better body awareness, and find more balance in their bodies. Yoga helps correct muscle imbalances which leads to increased power and strength.
2. Balanced Bodies and Injury Prevention
When the body is out of balance, it is much more prone to injury. If you’re compensating for tightness or stiffness, you hold and move your body differently, basically setting yourself up for injury. Yoga helps bring the body back into alignment and address imbalances before they become injuries.
3. Breath Work Increases Performance
Most of us don’t know how to breathe properly, truly. Some athletes rely heavily on breath work (like swimmers), and learn about how to effectively utilize their breath. But many athletes are not taught how to use their breath to their advantage. Learning how to connect with breath can help with quicker recovery, dealing with performance anxiety, releasing excess energy or frustration, muscle recruitment for optimal power, and so much more. All of which can all lead to a stronger performance.
4. Meditation and Sport Specific Visualization is Like Magic Meditation teaches us how to be still in the present moment. It teaches us how to observe our thoughts, and external distractions without allowing them to steal our attention. A few moments in stillness. Permission to let go, knowing you are enough, exactly as you are. It’s something we all need, a pause from the demands and from the pressure.
For athletes, meditation can help them to find their “zone” or that “flow”, that space that many elite athletes refer to when they are at their optimal performance. Where they are not caught up in their minds, but rather allowing themselves just to be in that moment. That state where they can trust what they have learned through practice, training, and coaching. And just show up to perform at their best. And with practicing, and patience athletes can learn to develop performance specific visualization practices. By learning to recall past performances, and without judgement of self become aware of how they could improve, or what they could do differently. It is also an opportunity to work with visualization as a way of creating intention for events or games yet to come. Visualizing, and feeling within how to move, how to succeed. These are some of the ways Yoga can help athletes to become their best. Not only is it good for the physical body, but also the mental and emotional bodies.