5 Ways Yoga Helps Improve Athletic Performance and Prevent Physical Injury
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If you practice yoga, you’ve likely heard and personally felt the physical benefits of yoga for the body—flexibility, muscle strength, core strength, cardio health—the list goes on. If you’re also an athlete, the benefits of yoga are icing on top of the cake. Athletes often experience a lot of tightening and shortening of the muscles. When these muscles and limbs aren’t stretched and prepped regularly, the risk of injury and disability increases over time. Yoga helps enhance, not replace, conventional athletic training by improving flexibility, posture, and body mechanics, thereby improving athletic performance and reducing the risk of physical injuries.
As yogis, you’ve heard and personally felt the physical benefits of yoga for the body—flexibility, muscle strength, core strength, cardio health—the list goes on. If you’re also an athlete, the benefits of yoga are icing on top of the cake.
Athletes often experience a lot of tightening and shortening of the muscles, as well as extreme pressure and pounding. When these muscles and limbs aren’t stretched and prepped regularly, the risk of injury and disability increases over time.
Yoga helps enhance, not replace, conventional athletic training by improving flexibility, posture, and body mechanics, thereby improving athletic performance and reducing the risk of physical injuries.
5 Practical Ways Yoga Can Improve Athletic Performance and Prevent Physical Injuries
Yoga is a form of mind-and-body exercise involving various poses, breathing techniques, and even meditation practices. This exercise dates back over 5,000 years, having evolved from Vedic yoga to modern yoga. Hence, this practice remains relevant to this day.
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The proof is in the numbers: The global yoga market could grow from $37.46 billion in 2019 to $66.22 billion by 2027. It’s projected to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6%.
Today, there are approximately 300 million people practicing yoga globally. Nearly 35 million Americans, comprising 10 percent of the U.S. population, practice yoga. However, they all have different reasons for doing so. Some practice to lose weight. Others practice to reduce stress and foster overall well-being.
One of the reasons to practice yoga is to improve athletic performance and prevent possible injuries. Need to be convinced? Here’s how yoga may help you as an athlete:
Yoga Helps Increase Your Energy Levels
According to a study, a 25-minute Hatha Yoga practice, coupled with mindfulness meditation, improved brain functions, cognitive abilities, and improved energy levels among 31 moderately experienced Hatha Yoga practitioners. In the study, the vigor-activity subscale showed greater benefits for those who practice Hatha Yoga and mindfulness meditation—particularly linked to the release of endorphins and increased blood flow to the brain.
Yoga is a form of physical exercise that can help you ditch your sedentary lifestyle. It isn’t as strenuous as strength training and cardiovascular activities like running and jogging. However, poses and stretches, such as Plank Pose (Phalakasana), Triangle Pose (Trikonasana), and Child’s Pose (Balasana), can also be physically challenging.
But here’s the good news: Yoga can make you physically active as an athlete. Regular practice may boost the energy levels you need for your athletic performance and the vitality you need to live life to the fullest. Therefore, add yoga to your schedule as part of your regular training.
Yoga Helps Boost Your Strength and Endurance
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, a 12-week Hatha Yoga intervention positively affected cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength among Hong Kong Chinese adults.
While some yoga poses are simple and easy, many popular poses, such as Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), and Tree Pose (Vrksasana), can be challenging to execute. But such difficulties can help build your muscles and strengthen your bones. Regular yoga may increase your overall endurance as an athlete.
John Gardner, cofounder and CEO of Kickoff, recommends yoga for some athletes playing certain types of sports. “We often include this practice in our personal training programs, often highly recommended for female clients. This exercise is perfect for building enough muscle mass and prolonging physical endurance. Remember, strength and endurance are key to optimized athletic performance.”
Yoga Improves Your Balance, Flexibility, and Athletic Performance
Most athletic performances require balance and flexibility. Think of gymnastics, martial arts, and even regular sports like baseball, basketball, and volleyball. That’s where yoga comes in for balance and flexibility.
In fact, a 10-week study among college athletes practicing yoga showed significant improvement in flexibility and balance, particularly seat and reach, shoulder flexibility, and stork stand, as compared to the non-yoga group.
Kevin Le Gall, owner and lead editor at Climbing House, associates yoga with self-awareness. “Yoga practice teaches you to pay attention to your body. Through posing, you’ll learn to have proper coordination and achieve a sense of balance. More importantly, stretching helps you become more flexible with your body and movements.”
Yoga Helps Enhance Your Focus and Concentration
A systematic review of current literature published in the National Library of Medicine examined several studies on different yoga styles (mainly Hatha and Kundalini) and the outcomes of their subjects’ brain health after 10 to 24 weeks of the control period. Using MRI as a testing tool, results of these studies showed that yoga practitioners had greater left hippocampus (plays an important role in retaining memory), as well as frontal, temporal, limbic, occipital, and cerebellar regions—responsible for the body’s cognitive control.
For this reason, yoga can go beyond the physical benefits that most yogis and athletes enjoy. Some studies suggest how this practice may be good for mental health. It may also help improve your cognitive functions, positively impacting your physical health as an athlete.
For one, yoga may help you relax, rest, and even sleep deeply. As such, it may reduce stress and help you perform well during athletic performances. Ultimately, it may boost your focus and concentration, allowing you to execute the right moves and hit your goals in the arena.
Yoga Aids in Alleviating Pain and Promoting Faster Recovery
According to Harvard Health, people experiencing low back pain showed increased mobility, more than what standard medical care does, from a weekly yoga class. If you experience chronic pain, certain yoga poses may help alleviate the pain, supplementary to standard exercise therapy.
In the same context, it’s inevitable for athletes to suffer from physical injuries and experience pain. But what’s good about yoga is that its poses may improve joint flexibility, reduce body inflammation, and increase blood circulation. The practice may help you recover from injury more quickly and even prevent this injury in the first place.
Harnessing the Power of Yoga to Improve Athletic Performance and Prevent Injuries
There’s no denying yoga’s power to improve athletic performance and prevent potential injuries. As such, consider the practical ways it may help you as an athlete. See how this exercise can aid your physical health, from increasing strength and endurance to improving balance and flexibility.
However, work with expert yoga teachers who can help you execute correct poses and perform the proper breathing techniques. Consult health professionals to see if yoga is right for you as an athlete. With informed decisions, you can make the most of yoga for an optimized performance without any physical injury!