By: Yoga Hollis

Yoga has many benefits for the athlete. Yoga works on flexibility, balance, core, breath, stability, and recovery, among other things. Any athlete could benefit hugely by adding yoga to his or her training regimen.

Here are Yoga benefits:

Flexibility:  Yoga invariably improves joint and muscular flexibility, which is crucial to the body’s overall structural soundness. Enhanced joint and muscle pliancy translate to a greater range of motion. Flexibility in general also helps to prevent injury.

Balance:  Through a consistent yoga practice, coordination and balance can improve immensely.  Better balance and coordination means enhanced control over how one moves their body, which in turn leads to better technique and form for the athlete.

Core:  Almost everything you do in yoga works on your core strength. A strong core equals a healthy back and a healthy body.

Stability:  Yoga helps strengthen all of the little stabilizing muscles that athletes tend to miss in other physical workouts and are vital in protecting your joints and spine.

Breathwork:  Yoga’s attention to breath is considered one of the most important benefits to athletes. Staying centered and focused through challenging, uncomfortable poses by concentrating on even inhalations and exhalations helps the athlete stay focused during a competition or training. The mind-body connection in yoga is essential to helping athletes develop mental acuity and concentration. Yoga helps the athlete to relax tight muscles, and helps calm and relax anxious and overstressed minds. Thus, aiding in a better athletic performance.

Recovery:  Some athletes have turned to Yoga to help them recover from injuries.  Yoga also helps elongate muscles that the athletes have spent years contracting.

Athletes who stretch before or after a workout, usually only stretch their muscles in the direction and plane in which they will be exercising.  Yoga goes far beyond simple stretching to working all range of motion; activating little-used muscles that support the primary muscles.  In order to have a healthy and balanced body, the body must be worked in all three planes of motion; not only in the sagittal plane but, in the frontal and transverse planes as well, ensuring well-rounded development.

Common overuse injuries among athletes:  The iliotibial band (ITB), knee, hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulders. Often, these injuries are directly linked to lack of flexibility, poor core strength and misalignment. Yoga helps alleviate tightness, builds a stronger center, and aligns the spine.

There are many yoga poses that feature twisting motions in the transverse plane, essential to opening up tight obliques and lower backs (revolving low lunge, i.e.: SpiderMan Reach – used at BRICK). Balancing postures like Tree or Eagle poses are some of the most effective ways to correct muscle imbalances and poor body mechanics.

Athletes oftentimes dismiss active restorative gentle recovery.  To be a better athlete rest and yoga can help make one a better athlete and person.