Article by Linda Adams
For more and more sports stars, from the collegiate to semi-professional to professional levels, yoga is becoming a common part of their preparation and workout routines. Confronting the long-held principle that yoga holds no advantage for performers involved in “hardy” sports such as football, basketball, hockey and even boxing, many institutions are including yoga into their training programs, while some of today’s leading sports stars separately have made yoga part of their off-season training as well.
For years, athletes have relied on weight training and extensive cardio routines to help them stay in peak condition to meet the demands of their sport. The relaxed movements of yoga (possibly their only knowledge of the philosophy) apparently lacked the strenuous exertion they feel their bodies needed to get them in game-ready condition.
But that false impression has transformed as sports groups and individual athletes have begun to research more thoroughly into yoga and discover the self-control, of both body and mind, necessary to achieve some of the more complicated yoga stances.
Sports stars such as NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Robert Parrish and Maurice Lucas, tennis legends Yannick Noah, Guillermo Vilas and John McEnroe; former NFL standout Dan Marino and even golfing star Gary Player led the way in the 1970s and 1980s in introducing the positive aspects of yoga to the athletic fields. And that movement continues today as stars such as tennis’ Serena and Venus Williams, pro basketball’s Shaquille O’Neal, pro football’s Shannon Sharp and Jon Kitna, boxer Evander Holyfield and entire franchises such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Cubs have tapped into the knowledge of yoga trainers to add a different and much-desired facet to their regimen.
So what is the benefit of adding yoga to your workout?
What may be of most attention to athletes is the information that points to yoga and its ability to improve overall power and strength. For a l ot of at hletes, increasing strength and power is the key to performing better at their sports, regardless of whether it’s baseball, swimming, track and field or football. But weight lifting, which a vast majority of athletes swear by, can only work one or two groups of muscles during each exercise, which means they must spend many hours in the gym to get the results they want. Yoga and its connected poses incorporate all of the muscles in the body to attain stability and strengthen the relationship between the muscles as well. The result? A body that is stronger and works as one cohesive unit.
Secondly, yoga works to build a stronger core, from most of the power the body needs in sports originates. In sports like baseball and tennis, the power to hit or throw begins in the torso. In football, the core helps the body make the sudden turns and twists that are needed in the sport. Getting this section of the body in condition is one of the main advantages to adding yoga to your athletic routine. The movements and stances of yoga served to improve the posture, help align the body and assists in the overall operation of the body, which can make athletes faster, more powerful and toned.
By adding muscle and balance, yoga also helps increase responsiveness in athletes, another major point. By combining enhanced strength, mobility and balance, yoga can increase agility that can be useful in virtually all sports. And as an added benefit, athletes who improve their mobility through yoga can reduce the possibility of injury by conditioning the body to the repetitive motions that can have harmful effects (think carpal tunnel syndrome).
Finally, practicing yoga can improve the coordination between the body and the mind. For many sports performers, there are “head games” involved in athletics: psyching out an opponent, visualizing success, predicting an opponent’s moves before he or she makes them. These decisions, sometimes made in mere seconds, depend upon a clear mind, a state that can be achieved through the med itative exercises of yoga. With breathing exercises, meditation sessions and the centered poses of yoga, sports performers can discover what is required to get their mind and body to work as one cohesive unit, even during the most stressful periods of a game, when muscles can tighten up, become inflexible and lower performance.
Thanks to their discovery of the benefit of yoga, it has now become a welcome part of the training program of many athletes on all skill levels. By exploring the diverse forms of yoga and their unique characteristics, athletes can find the perfect style of yoga to fit the needs of their specific sport.
About the Author
Linda Adams enjoys all things health related.
One of the most excellent yoga websites Linda has found is Kamloops Yoga Fitness, which is a exceptional mix of yoga and exercise.
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