Yoga has been a popular sport in recent years, however it is not a “new sport”. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and as one of the world's most popular forms of exercise and meditation, with extensive benefits for your physical, mental and spiritual health.
The benefits of yoga are numerous and far-reaching, including improved flexibility, strength, endurance and balance.Some people practice yoga as an individual sport, hobby or passion, but in this blog we will be taking a look at how yoga can be beneficial to any and all sports players or athletes of any level.
Yoga can improve sports performance and we’re going to let you know how you can improve your sports training with yoga. So let’s jump straight in and explore some of ways yoga can help you become a better athlete.
If we told you them all this would be a book not a blog 😉
YOGA FOR ATHLETES:
We will preface this article with reminding you that yoga is a form of physical and mental exercise that is quickly being discovered as a way to help athletes maximize their performance.
The slow and controlled move of many yoga poses focus on specific muscle fibers or joints, which makes it ideal for injury rehabilitation for athletes. Yoga can also be used to increase performance, reduce stress and enhance an athlete’s competitive edge, all of which we will break down individually below. So if you could benefit from any of these added benefits, keep reading.
1. REDUCES THE RISK OF INJURY OR RE-INJURY
It goes without saying that athletes, sportspeople and any human in general really dislike being injured. It’s a far-from-fun process from the injury to returning to sport. From rehab exercises to physiotherapy, even watching from the sidelines or benches as everyone else continues while you struggle.
Although there is no magic medicine to 100% effectively prevent injury, there are steps that we can take to reduce the risk of injury. Like stretching and warming up effectively and focussing on the muscle groups we use most in our sport to be more mobile, agile and even stronger.
This doesn’t always need to be strength and conditioning or recurring physiotherapy appointments, yoga is a really effective method of prehabilitation or prehab, which is the same idea as rehab, but prevention instead of cure!
NOT CONVINCED YET?
In one study published in the Journal of Sport Exercise Physiology (2010), researchers found that chronic injuries among male basketball players dropped by half after they started practicing a version of Hatha Yoga called Ashtanga Vinyasa. That’s a 50% decrease in injury rates.
If you could dedicate 15 minutes a day to yoga, you could also reduce the risk of becoming injured, how amazing would that be?
2. YOGA INCREASES FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY
Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility. In fact, yoga has been shown to increase your range of motion.
Even if your sport doesn’t require you to be as flexible as an olympic gymnast, everyone can benefit from having better mobility and flexibility in their everyday tasks and their sport.
Flexibility also helps improve your muscular strength, endurance and even your stride length which can ultimately make you faster.
Flexibility can also decrease your chances of injury by lengthening and strengthening muscles that can be strained during sports training.
3. YOGA HELPS TO IMPROVE COORDINATION AND CONCENTRATION
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to improving your coordination is breathing. Simple, right? Well if you struggle to control your breath, yoga can help train your breathing.
The ability to breathe deeply is helpful in many sports, but it’s especially important for those who are playing fast-paced, aerobic sports like soccer or basketball. A shallow breath will cause your body to tense up, making it harder for you to move quickly and accurately.
By breathing deeply through your nose (not just with your mouth), rather than into the back of your throat, as many people do when playing sports or exercising on their own time at home or in school gyms—you can improve your aerobic fitness and coordination!
Breath control is one of the most important things that athletes need to work on, and yoga can help them do just that. By practicing yoga for breathing, you’ll improve your focus and concentration at all times. Yoga helps relax muscles in the body, which allows athletes to breathe more easily. In addition, it teaches you how to control your breath by focusing on taking long slow breaths, instead of shallow ones like we’ve mentioned above.
This skill is especially useful when playing sports because it will help you stay calm under pressure while performing better than ever before!
4. YOGA IMPROVES STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE
Yoga can help improve your strength and endurance, which are both equally important for athletes. Yoga is an excellent way to reduce stress and ease the mind, leading to a more productive workout.
In addition to building muscle mass, yoga can help you build up your grip strength by strengthening the muscles around your fingers. This will allow you to hold onto things more firmly when doing handstands or other exercises where holding on tight is necessary for stability.
If you play a sport like golf, hurling, hockey or even basketball, your grip strength can be improved through yoga.
5. YOGA IMPROVES BALANCE, POSTURE AND AGILITY
In addition to the benefits we’ve already discussed, yoga helps with balance and agility—two things that are important for athletes in a variety of sports.
Your ability to stabilise your body on impact (which can happen often in a team or contact sport) relies on your core strength. Practicing poses like tree pose or downward dog can build the strength of your core.
In particular, dynamic yoga poses and sequences can improve your strength, power and agility which can improve sports performance and make you a better well-rounded athlete.
HAVE WE CONVINCED YOU?
If you’re an athlete, I’m sure you will agree by now that yoga is a great way to improve your performance. With a whole range of benefits outlined above, we have only scratched the surface.
Thankfully, you don’t need a whole lot of equipment to get started with yoga and there are plenty of resources to help you nail the basics online. If you find it works for you, take a look at some of our yoga equipment and level up in 2023 with all of your yoga essentials available at Decathlon.ie