Increase Strength, Flexibility and Mental Endurance with YOGA!
By Erin McCollough LMT, RYT
Yoga has long been sought after for the physical benefits that result from regular practice. A regular yoga practice supports increased flexibility, whole body strength, balance and overall health. It also supports mental focus and stamina. So, it’s no surprise that athletes are using yoga to support and maintain their performance. However, what may be surprising is how many athletes are giving credit to yoga for their success and triumph in professional sports.
Increased flexibility is a result of yoga which helps joints, tendons, and muscles stay limber. The flexibility that athletes develop from a yoga practice supports better performance. This increased flexibility also helps prevent injuries – particularly to especially vulnerable joints such as the rotator cuff and the knee. The core and the torso can be difficult to stretch effectively, but many yoga poses – including the bow and the cobra poses – provide a thorough stretch within these regions of the body. Yoga offers a gentle way of stretching the neck and upper back muscles which accumulate tension from repetitive strain. Practicing yoga increases range of motion in all major joints. Our joints contain synovial fluid, which is a lubricating fluid that allows them to move freely. The movement during a yoga class is excellent for helping the circulation of this fluid.
Yoga helps to increase muscle mass and flexibility, therefore supporting stability. This is a key factor for reducing the risk of injury. For instance, knees can be a source of pain for athletes. Yoga helps to build the muscle around the knees making them stronger and more stable. The standing balance poses and warrior poses, for example, can provide a challenge for the muscles of the lower body, especially for the stabilizer muscles that may not be used as much during regular training workouts. Overall, the balance created between flexibility and strength creates stability which leads to greater control and a decreased risk of injury.
The attention to concentration and breath awareness in a yoga class improves mental focus and mental endurance hidden assets that become especially important at the end of a long training session or race. According to TKV Desikachar, author of The Heart of Yoga, yoga can help you identify obstacles in your life and can give you the mental stamina to overcome them. He recommends incorporating five to ten minutes of pranayama (breathing exercises) into your daily routine. “Ujjayi” is one form of pranayama, which can help you regain focus and calm your mind. In addition, yoga improves one’s endurance by helping athletes to relax, preserve energy, and better concentrate – especially in demanding circumstances. By practicing yoga, you learn the ability to observe the patterns of tension in the body that take away from efficiency.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Yoga makes good athletes great. Athletes are drawn to the intensity of the physical practice, and the mental support that sustaining the intensity requires, as well as the preventative aspect of reducing and healing injury. Only positive results can come from integrating a regular yoga practice into any athlete’s training routine. Each person, no matter what their level, can benefit from consistently participating in regular yoga classes!
CNY Healing Arts offers a variety of yoga classes including Hatha, Vinyasa, Kripalu and Restorative classes. For more information, visit www.cnyhealingarts.com to check out the yoga schedule at the location nearest to you (Rochester, Syracuse and Albany).