5 Reasons Yoga is Beneficial to Athletes
- Photo taken from lululemon.com
Yoga provides many health and wellness benefits for everyone, including athletes. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine conducted a study showing that the physical benefits of Yoga for athletes are lowered heart rate, increased oxygen intake, increased strength and improved flexibility. Athletes also report that yoga enhances their mind body connection, providing mental clarity and focus on the field and off. Here are 5 key reasons why Yoga can be beneficial for those involved in sports and athletic training programs.
1. Yoga boosts recovery- If you have ever felt sore, you understand that vigorous exercise can cause lactic acid to be secreted into the muscle tissue. The soreness caused by lactic acid build up can hinder or even prevent further training and performance. Yoga asanas, or postures, assist in circulating the lactic acid out of muscle tissue and into the blood stream where it is sent to liver to be processed. In addition, yoga helps with sleep regulation, which is critical to an athlete’s recovery.
2. Yoga can help reduce injury and restore balance to the body – In many sports athletes engage in activities that are dominant on one side or area of the body, for example a baseball pitcher may dominantly exercise his pitching arm without ever working on the other arm, reducing balance and symmetry. Mechanical dominance of this type can lead to chronic injury. Yoga helps to reduce these types of joint and tissue imbalances.
3. Yoga increases energy conservation by improving biomechanics – Athletes perform best when they have maximum performance with high energy conservation. Energy is used to move a joint and the more tension that is built around that joint, the more energy is needed to make the movement. Yoga increases flexibility and joint range of motion, reducing muscle tension and maximising energy conservation. This allows the athlete to perform at higher levels for longer periods of time.
4. Yoga improves focus and body awareness – Yoga utilises physical and mental exercises that strengthen the awareness of body positioning and movement . Enhanced body awareness skills are vital in the development and progression of athletic training. The breathing and meditative techniques used in Yoga provide valuable tools for event preparation, routine and skill visualisation, as well as anxiety and stress reduction.
5. Yoga improves breathing – Yoga breathing exercises, particularly pranayama deep breathing and skull shining breath, have been shown to improve breathing and lung capacity. These focused breathing exercises maximise function of all breathing mechanisms, particularly the diaphragm and intercostal breathing. Optimal lung health is crucial for athlete’s, particularly for those who engage in aerobic-based exercise and require strong lungs to deliver sufficient oxygen uptake to their blood stream.