Monday, 23 February 2015

Do you need to do Yoga if you keep fit or play sports?

It is a common misconception that if you are a keen on sports & keeping fit, you don’t need to do yoga.   Well, whilst many believe this, they couldn’t be farther away from the truth.  

Yoga has many benefits for anyone keen on fitness … including professional athletes.  

Here’s just 3 of those benefits:

1. Balance

Most sports tend to focus on using the same small number of muscles & joints moving in the same repetitive direction again & again.  Think tennis, running, cycling, golf

This constant repetition overuses certain muscles & joints and neglects the rest which leads to an imbalance. 

Asymmetrical movement patterns just happen to be the number one reason why professional athletes experience decreased performance. It makes sense, since say for example, in tennis, if one ankle if tighter than the other, it stops you from squatting quite as deeply on that side and creates the bad habit of favouring one side over the other during a match. 
A well designed yoga routine prevents  muscle imbalance from happening and creates muscle symmetry.   Yoga creates flexibility, core stabilization, joint mobilization, muscle endurance and deep breathing that  balances all the muscles & joints in the body. 

2. Recover & Prevent Injuries

There probably isn’t a single sportsperson who hasn’t had an injury, but that’s just part of the game… right?

What if we said that that’s not true? Many athletes, such as the footballer Ryan Giggs discovered yoga when recovering from an injury but kept practicing yoga even after he had recovered to prevent future injuries from happening and to extend his career.

The reason for many injuries is that tighter muscles pull some joints out of alignment and drive the body into overcompensating for the immobile joints by overusing others.   So for example, in swimming the shoulders are very well-developed but also prone to injuries if the spine and core are not used properly to support that range of motion. Through lengthening the muscles of the core, a swimmer would minimize the chance of shoulder injury occurring.

3. The mental side of your game

Playing a sport professionally requires as much of mental strength as is does physical     skills. In that sense yoga is invaluable for any professional. As professional tennis player Jeff English says “A big part of tennis is getting rid of inner chatter, which yoga does. So when you get into the match, instead of thinking, 'Oh, I have to win this point', you have trained your mind to be still".  
As yoga teaches mindfulness and being into the moment, it releases anxiety and stress and slows athletes to improve focus by ignoring distractions. It also teaches them to challenge themselves and go outside their comfort zone, which ultimately leads to better performance, as they are more flexible to respond to unexpected situations.


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