The Benefits of Yoga for Athletes: Strength, Flexibility, and Balance
More and more athletes, starting from runners to cyclists and soccer players, have approached the world of yoga. Most, myself included, have approached yogic practice during injuries, to speed up recovery times or to find physical well-being during a hard period of enforced rest. This approach, “curative,” once proven the benefits of yoga on my skin, it later became a choice.
In the sports world, there is still a large slice of skeptics who shy away from even trying to participate in a yoga class.
Why does this happen?
The common risk is to confuse yoga practice with static meditation practice. The physical practice of yoga has nothing to do with sitting cross-legged for hours on end.
Over the years, lots of confusion has arisen around the word yoga and its declinations. Let’s go now to discover together why every athlete should practice yoga at least one hour a week.
The 10 Benefits of Yoga for Athletes:
1. Strength development:
Yogic practice helps to strengthen muscle fibers and joints, keeping them mobile and flexible. For athletes who perform gym sessions or muscle training with high overloads, yoga can be an ally to work in-depth on all those muscles, which often, during weightlifting training, are not involved or are weak and therefore are compensated by others stronger muscles.
2. Accident prevention:
The practice strengthens the deep connective tissue, and therefore, this allows to prevent muscle injuries and injuries to the joints. It will not replace the hours at the physiotherapist, but it will certainly reduce them.
Some think they cannot practice yoga because it is not flexible, but it is like saying that if you have an empty refrigerator, you don’t have to go to the supermarket. You can also approach yoga because you want to improve your flexibility. In sport, muscular and performance efficiency closely relates to flexibility.
4. Physical balance:
The ability to balance is trained a lot in young athletes, but unfortunately, once adolescence is over, there is a tendency almost wholly to abandon the training of this ability.
Yoga works on balance in a specific way; in fact, by becoming aware of your body in relation to space, your center of gravity, and performing controlled movements, you increase your balance. This also prevents falls, strengthening the athlete’s agility.
5. Blood circulation:
There are specific asanas (as the positions are called), which, among the various benefits of yoga, have that of balancing blood circulation, restoring the correct flow of hormones in the blood, massaging internal organs and glands.
6. Lymphatic system / Muscle recovery / detoxification:
Fatigue is more easily recovered through logical diaphragmatic breathing, which significantly affects the athlete’s lymphatic system, with a detoxifying function.
Eliminates toxins faster, regenerating the athlete’s tissues.
7. Management and control of breathing:
Most of the time, you breathe automatically and entirely unconsciously. Through the exercises of pranayama (i.e., breathing), a more exceptional ability to perceive one’s breath develops.
By becoming aware and developing new breathing techniques, you can learn to calm your sympathetic system, restoring physical and mental calm.
8. Management of emotions:
Which athlete has never felt overwhelmed by their feelings? It could have happened before a competition, during a period of injury, during a tough workout. Here, yogic practice helps to manage one’s emotions. By increasing the awareness of what happens inside us, we are no longer at the mercy of the mental traps and automatisms consolidated over time that lead a subject to respond in a certain way in front of a specific circumstance.
9. Mental concentration:
Improves sensory acuity, clarity, transparency, willpower, and determination.
10. Vital energy:
Those who play sports intensely or at a competitive level often experience drops in energy. Training and competitions seem to “suck” most of the athlete’s strength. Yogic practice is a winning weapon also for this aspect. The life energy increases, you will see things from another perspective, and you will feel a more significant and different power within you.
How To Start Yoga (Benefits of Yoga for Athletes)
My advice for athletes, whatever sport they play, is to introduce yoga exercises gradually into their days. A skier will need to work on muscles, other than those that affect a weight thrower instead. Starting with sun greetings in the morning is a great choice. Once you find an interest in this practice and this world, it is highly recommended that you take part in a yoga class taught by a certified teacher.
How to Insert Yoga Between Workouts
This is a question that I still look for the right answer. However, after four years of yogic practice and competitive activity, it is clear to me when it is not good to practice yoga, and I will share it with you. However, I remember that every sport is different, not only for the athletic gesture but also for the number of weekly workouts, the volume of work, the load, the type of effort (aerobic, anaerobic, lactic acid …), the intensity and above all the time of year you are in.
In principle, it is good to practice yoga as far as possible from daily training. The best time is early in the morning if you are training in the afternoon, or late in the evening if you plan on training during the early part of the day. I do not recommend practicing yoga on the same day of training in the gym and after very intense work, as lactic acid tests can be for athletes. The rest day, if you have it, is by far the best time to dedicate yourself to this practice, or after some mild aerobic work.
In conjunction with competitions, I do not recommend physical practice before the competition, but breathing and meditation exercises are excellent to prepare for the competitive moment.
Now, to you, What do you think of the benefits of yoga for Athletes? Have you ever tried it after an injury? Do you practice it regularly? What benefits has it brought into your life?