Pop quiz! What do Evan Longoria, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Lewis, Floyd Mayweather, Keith Mitchell and Kevin Garnett have in common (besides being pro- athletes, of course)?
Answer – They all practice yoga!
Fact: Many coaches are now scheduling yoga classes into their team’s training schedules to boost their player’s performance. What coach doesn’t want their team to win, right? What these coaches know is that yoga improves their player’s flexibility, balance and strength in ways that training alone cannot. Not to mention that it also strengthens their bones, joints, tendons and ligaments! Combined with meditation that’s known to boost game-time focus, these players are on the track to winning! And less injury-prone too. Good call coaches!
So, I ask you. Are you an athlete that wants to follow in the pro’s footsteps? If so, keep reading to learn just how yoga can ignite your game.
Yoga Gives You a 6-Pack – And More!
Sure, you can do crunches ALL day, the problem is that they do nothing for your rhomboids. So, you work separately on strengthening your rhomboids. Still, these muscles are not working together. You do want your muscles to work together, right? Yoga to the rescue! Yoga helps your body use your muscles intelligently, to link them so that you increase your overall upper-body strength. If you don’t believe me try an intermediate yoga class and see if you can hold your own body weight. I’m talking about ‘boat pose” friends. Chances are you can’t! You may be an athlete that trains everyday. Your muscles may be ginourmous. However, there are many muscles that you rarely use, and yoga can strengthen those muscles. While you may think your first yoga class will be a piece of cake, you’ll walk out in disbelief when you realize just how many of your muscles are very weak. Don’t be discouraged! Just keep going to class. In time you’ll feel these muscles become stronger, giving you an incredible advantage on the field. Power is enhanced when muscles work together!
Touch Your Toes
I know, know, you stretch after practice so you’re flexible (enough), right? Wrong! I can’t count the number of athletes that have come to me that cannot touch their toes, much less their knees due to super-tight hamstrings. Or, (get this) they can’t grasp their hands behind their back because their biceps and shoulders are so tight. Listen, it’s OK, and perfectly normal if you don’t stretch (enough). Thing is, this is not gonna help your game! Never underestimate the power of a flexible body. Increasing your range of motion through yoga will open you up to not only playing better but preventing countless injuries too.
What do you do to strengthen your ankles? Anything? Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t love tree pose. As a former athlete I’ve sprained both ankles multiple times (pre-yoga days)! But, I’ll also be the first to admit that, while tree pose isn’t my go to pose in yoga, it IS the pose I need to practice the most. Why? Because it strengthens my weak ankle and arches. In fact, after my last ankle sprain (and meniscus tear) the only thing that helped me to run again was yoga, specifically practicing tree pose everyday. Standing on one foot for anywhere from a few breaths to a few minutes will not only help you to become quicker on your feet but will also strengthen those muscles so that you’ll be less prone to injury and much more balanced on (and off) the field. If you fall out of tree pose, don’t be embarrassed, it happens to everyone! Just (slowly) step back into it and focus on your breathing. Trust me, in time you’ll balance like a pro! No pun intended!
Let’s face it. Training is hard. It is impactful and while it’s great to build strength and endurance, it’s not great for your joints. I can attest! I was warned year after year not to keep playing basketball or run track because it would injure my knees. Did I take the advice? Nope. Do my knees hurt now, 10 years later? Yes. But not as much as they would if I didn’t practice yoga. Yoga is much safer for your joints because it’s super low-impact. You’ll combine movements to improve your range of motion while holding poses to create strength. These unique combinations help to support your joints by strengthening the muscles and tendons around them. What does that mean? The next impact on the field will injure you less. Why? Because stress from an impact directly affects the joint. If your joints are protected by strong muscles and tendons those impacts can’t possibly damage your joint the way it would if you didn’t practice yoga.
Whether you run, box, play football, basketball, tennis, or are into heavy lifting at the gym take the time to add yoga to your schedule. I promise, it’ll ignite your game, no matter what sport you play. Tell your teammates to do the same! Did I mention practicing yoga will also lengthen your career? It can. If you practice consistently you’ll prepare your body and mind for whatever your sport requires of you. If you want to be in the game long-term, start practicing yoga. I recommend finding a studio that offers beginner yoga classes as well as restorative yoga. Remember, while you may be an athlete you need to learn the basics of yoga first. So sign up for a couple beginner classes each week and try to take a restorative yoga class once a week also. It’ll speed up your recovery time immensely.
Jaylene Geisler is a certified yoga instructor and freelance writer with a passion for fitness and nutrition. She has been blogging professionally for nearly 10 years and is currently writing her first book. Jaylene became a yoga instructor after decades of playing sports. She now teaches athletes how to use yoga to prevent injuries and to improve their concentration on and off the field. In college Jaylene earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and thus aims to further the emerging field of Psychoneuroimmunology by contributing her knowledge of the countless benefits of yoga and meditation to current and future medical research. In her free time she loves to travel and stay active!