Yoga For Athletes

by: Beth Norris

“Is yoga for athletes”? “Do you offer a yoga class for athletes?”  These are questions I have been asked many times over since NBalance Hot Yoga & Fitness opened.   “Yes and yes” are my answers to each question.   If you are an “athlete” accustomed to a traditional training regime, you probably doubt my answer to the first question and, if you have looked over our schedule, you are probably saying to yourself “there is no yoga for athletes’ class at NBalance”.  Read on and then go grab your mat (or use one of ours).

Despite the long history of yoga’s existence (thousands of years), yoga is most often excluded from the training schedules of everyday athletes.  Reasoning for this ranges from lack of time, to the athlete or coach believing that yoga is just “another way to stretch”.   Over recent years, the use of yoga by professional athletes has helped to demystify the benefits of yoga for athletes.  Yoga has progressed from a tool during the off season or for injury recovery to becoming an integral part of the competitive athlete’s regime.  Benefits of yoga for athletes include:

1.             Restore balance in the body.  Yoga promotes symmetry of movement, increases the extensibility of joint connective tissues, and develops core stability.

2.            Increase breath control.  Yoga practice includes focused techniques to promote breathing mechanics and lung capacity, which helps to reduce stress and improve adequate oxygen delivery to working muscles.

3.             Enhance rest and recovery. Selected yoga postures will enhance recovery from intense training by aiding in the removal of lactic acid, promote relaxation of mind and body and improve sleep patterns.

4.            Improve body awareness.  Consistent yoga practice increases the awareness of body positioning and movement, enhancing joint stability and agility.

5.             Mental focus.  The ability to focus the mind, exclude external distracters, and visualize optimal outcome is a trait that distinguishes the top athletes.  The ability to control the mind and quiet the mental chatter is a trait that develops with consistent yoga practice.

For those of you who need examples of “real athletes” who benefit from yoga, let’s look to back to football.  During the playoffs and weeks prior to the 2012 Superbowl, there were several news related articles regarding yoga and New York Gaints.  An article from Foxnews.com on 2/3/12 was titled “Yoga: How the New York Giants Prepare for the Superbowl”.  The article described how yoga is a regular part of both the pre-season, as well as, in-season training programs for the Giants.   Another proponent for yoga is Amani Toomer (former NFL wide receiver) who began incorporating yoga into his training regime in 2004 and was quoted in 2009 to say “If I hadn’t done yoga, I’d be out of the league now”.

A powerful statement advocating the benefits of yoga for athletes comes from Rich Roll, ultra-endurance athlete, who was quoted to say:

“EVERY athlete – irrespective of sport or discipline – has the potential to enhance his or her ability by adopting a consistent yoga practice” RRoll 5/4/12 Mindbodygreen.com

While the answer to the second question – Do you offer yoga for athletes? – is yes, you will not find Yoga for Athletes under our class listing.  The reason for this is that one of the things I quickly learned through yoga is that we are all athletes.  You do not have to be training for an event, participating in team sports, doing the workout of the day, or logging miles cycling or running to qualify as an athlete.  Some of the most amazing ‘athletes’ I know are the stay at home mothers.  Somehow, they have the energy to rise with sun (if not before), get the children off to school, cook, clean, volunteer for endless activities, supervise homework, mediate fights, perform hundreds of squats a day (picking up the things everyone else leaves on the floor) and countless of ‘lifts and carries’ (carrying all that stuff up and down steps).

The beauty of yoga is that you can be in a class with professional athletes, the young, the old, the fit, the unfit, and somehow everyone has the same razor sharp focus, the union of breath, the challenges with balance postures and the room to expand their practice.

Through a consistent yoga practice you will find that yoga prepares us for the most important event we participate in, life.  There is no need for a separate class for athletes.  Yes, NBalance may host special workshops to introduce yoga to athletes of different sports.  However, in the yoga room we are all the same.  When you let go of your ego and see beyond the labels we give ourselves, we are all ultimately ‘training’ to live the best life we can.  Yes, yoga is for athletes.

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