Yoga is an ancient practice that uses tools such as physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation and spiritual lessons to achieve a state of inner calm, peace, and self-control.
Maybe you have never considered yoga as part of your training program or felt that it won't help you as an athlete. In reality, it can be an amazing tool to enhance athletic performance and recovery. It can indeed help runners and athletes of all types in many ways, here are a few:
By building the right muscles
Yoga is an amazing strength builder because it targets both the large and the minor muscle groups (neck, soles of the feet, forearms). Aside from being a good total body workout, yoga postures specifically target stabilizing muscles, which are essential for optimal athletic performance, balance and joint support.
By cultivating mental focus
Yoga has been proven to cultivate mental focus and concentration. This can improve performance in athletes and increase their perseverance and resilience. Yoga also teaches how to control the mind, and since the “mind over body” rule applies to fitness, yoga can be of great help.
By taking care of the back
Yoga is a great core strength builder, as all yoga postures require some degree of core engagement. Having a strong core ensures the back is supported, protected and remains healthy. Yogic postures also help to stretch and strengthen the spine, which can relieve some of the spinal tension and stress caused by high impact exercises such as running or daily activities such as sitting at a desk or in a vehicle for long periods of time.
By speeding up recovery
Studies have shown that yoga can help decrease inflammation levels in the body, which helps to speed up muscle and tissue recovery. Additionally, passive stretching, similar to the stretching done in yoga, helps to oxygenate the muscles and increase their energy stores to speeds up recovery and encourages muscle growth and repair–a benefit for athletes of all types.
By building flexibility
Yoga is well known for building flexibility. Athletes might argue that they don’t necessarily need to be flexible, but it’s important to keep the body balanced. Too much strength can cause rigidity; hence the need for some flexibility exercises. Yoga also keeps the joints healthy, as it has even been proven to cure and reverse signs of osteoarthritis.
How to get started:
More than just a physical practice, yoga is also a dynamic meditation. It uses the postures and the breath as tools to achieve mental focus and clarity.
So if you’re thinking of incorporating a yoga practice into your usual fitness routine. You can start by being aware of your breath.
Indeed, just focusing on the breath as you warm up or cool down is a good start.
From there you can perform basic postures and sequences, such as the sun salutations A, B or the moon salutations for a more traditional yoga flow.
You can start your yoga journey with an experienced teacher who will give you the knowledge, advice, and tips that you need, or you can simply study and research on your own, in order to build your own practice and sequences. Many great beginner videos can be found on YouTube including sequences specific to running or other sports.
No matter what you do, add yoga into your fitness routine and the results will soon follow.