Flexibility Isn’t the Only Benefit of Yoga!

I grew up in Cincinnati watching this graceful, middle aged woman named Lillian, who calmly and softly spoke on Saturday morning public television, showing everyone how to sit calmly in a variety of yoga poses. Not exactly relevant to today’s modern fast-paced lifestyle.

But sport science research has come to understand the importance of yoga for sports enthusiasts. The repetitive motion of many sports can create permanent damage to joints, muscles and bones. Increased flexibility, range of motion, mind-body connections and core strength helps avoid injury, build strength, and balance. Being a better athlete isn’t always about more muscle, strength or speed. A smarter athlete is more agile, quicker and makes better choices.

A focus on breath is important for athletes. By increasing and strengthening their lungs, they can improve endurance and strength. They can also learn how to control their heart rate during athletic experiences.

One of the biggest hurdles in learning the importance of the breath, strength and balance aspects of yoga is the mind set of intimidation about the practice, as well as the stereotypes that it is for ‘girls’. This can change by educating our upcoming athletes at a younger age about the benefits of practicing yoga regularly.

Yoga moves, such as a reclining spinal twist, can help loosen the lower back. Pigeon helps loosen the hip joints where stress can be stored but true power emanates from. Sun salutations make an excellent warm up for flexibility, back and hip health, low-back flexibility and arm strength. My P90X series often uses them as a warm up. Low lunge, half split and quad stretch keeps muscles flexible and strong. Forward fold or squat twist stretches out hip flexors, low back, balance and upper back flexibility. Many yoga poses strengthen the core which helps any athlete avoid back injury.

Clearly, yoga is an important practice for anyone searching for a more peaceful state, but also for any serious athlete who wants to perform better and faster!

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