Yoga has risen in popularity over the past years with experts touting its benefits of improving mental acuity, sleep, breath control, flexibility and core strength.
For sport enthusiasts and competitive athletes, yoga adds value in the area of injury prevention. Many sports, such cycling and running, have very repetitive movements in one direction, thereby developing certain muscle groups while ignoring others. Over time, this can lead to overuse injuries due to imbalances in the muscles and joints.
Yoga becomes an athlete’s ally because it works the body through all ranges of motion, activating little-used muscles that support primary movers. With improved range of motion, you can recover faster and have fewer potential injuries.
1) Increase Flexibility and Range of Motion
Yoga routines incorporate movements that work the muscles and joints around their axis, creating a larger range of contraction that allows the muscles to lengthen.
The more tension around a joint, the more energy is required to facilitate movement. Since an athlete’s goal is to maximise performance with the least amount of energy expenditure, yoga can enhance joint and muscle pliancy to improve biomechanics and therefore energy conservation.
2) Proper Postural Alignment
Musculoskeletal imbalances can occur because many sports have specific movements that dominate one side of the body. Yoga can be beneficial in reducing joint loading and imbalances.
Improving your balance and coordination leads to better technique and form. Better technique and form = better performance.
3) Improve Mindfulness and Concentration
Yoga creates focus through distraction. An active practice trains your mind to shut out outer noise and inner chatter and to focus in the moment.
Athletes call this mindful, present state: The Zone.
Between the Mat and the Pavement
If you are to embark upon a yoga programme, remember it’s important to start slowly and listen to your body: pain is an indication that something is wrong.
Set yourself some personal goals where you determine your baseline. Don’t compete – it is better to execute a partial pose with great form than one that’s out of alignment.
Lastly, respect the art of yoga: just as it may have taken you years to develop a foundation for your running, this same approach should be applied to yoga.