Three Ways Yoga Makes You a Better Athlete

Athletes of all ages require a variety of physical, mental and nutritional routines to achieve and retain peak performance condition. As yoga continues to gain popularity in the western world, more and more athletes wonder if and how the ancient practice of yoga can help them achieve their goals on the field, on the ice or in the pool.

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Here are three of the many benefits of adding a consistent yoga practice into your training regimen.

Increased Strength

Resistance training of any kind is known to aid in muscle retention, muscle growth, and bone strengthening. Many styles of yoga incorporate resistance in the form of body weight-bearing postures such as Chaturanga (a push up variation), Chair Pose (a squat variation) and Airplane (a one-legged balancing posture).

For those new to yoga, you are most likely using different muscle groups than used during your typical strength training routine, potentially strengthening different groups of muscles. The practice of yoga also incorporates a variety of breathing techniques, which, over time, increase lung capacity and contribute to increased stamina and endurance during athletic performance.

Recovery

Restorative types of yoga, such as the tradition of Yin, focus on physical recovery rather than active strengthening. You may remain in a single, seated posture for five to 10 minutes at a time in some instances. The extended time in each posture provides a deeper stretch through your muscles and connective tissue, lubricates joints, and facilitates the movement of lactic acid through tissue. Restorative types of yoga provide spinal decompression through folded, lengthening postures, and slow steady breaths calm the nervous system.

Improved Mental Health

In recent years, research has emerged that strongly suggests yoga improves symptoms of depression, ADHD and sleeplessness. Improvement in these symptoms lead to increased mental clarity, greater confidence, as well as enhancement of general mental health.

Yoga promotes the cultivation of mindfulness, or consistent awareness of how your body and mind feel. As this mindfulness takes hold in the practitioner and becomes habit, it translates into other areas of athletic performance and competition.

Kathleen Burke is a fully certified RYT200 yoga instructor in the greater Boston area. She instructs in various styles including Power Yoga, Vinyasa, Hatha and Restorative Yoga. She has taught more than 1,000 classes to all levels, ages, and types of students.

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