Yoga postures (asanas) are the physical positions that coordinate breath with movement. These asanas strengthen your muscles, release physical tension and improve your concentration. Yoga systematically works all the muscle groups (i.e. the back, neck, and shoulders, abdominals, hips, and glutes, as well as ankles, feet, wrists and hands) so you can build strength, balance, flexibility and coordination.
Here are some examples of how yoga can benefit specific athletes:
Runners: Not only is yoga a great way to help stretch the hamstrings, glutes, and hips; it can also help tone the core, improve range of motion and balance the body, absorbing the impact frequent running has on other areas of the body.
Swimmers: Yoga breathing techniques (pranayama) can help swimmers breathe in a more relaxed and controlled way as they exercise. Core stability built through yoga help promotes better stroke technique.
Golfers: Golfers may be prone to one-sided or uneven muscle development. Yoga asanas can strengthen weak areas and ease muscular tension. The standing poses improve balance and muscle flexibility. Additionally, yoga promotes mobility and core strength crucial to a bio-mechanically correct swing.
Cyclists: Back bends can relieve any stiffness caused by bending over handlebars. Because a cyclist’s back stays in one position for long periods of time, the muscles may become tense; so yoga stretching can help ease stiffness. Asanas also improve core stability which help cyclists maintain a better position while in the saddle.
Crossfitters: Yoga helps promote general mobility, positional awareness, focus, breath, and presence needed to stay on track while working out. In fact, most of the traditional yoga poses support the same concepts Coach Glassman refers to regarding creating torque, finding a neutral spinal position, and always working from core to extremity.
All Sports: Yoga will help relieve stress as it helps promote calm and clear thinking, even in situations that call for fast reactions. Yoga also helps the muscles, tendons, and ligaments move through a full range of motion, thus cultivating balance and core strength which is a huge benefit to athletes in their chosen sports.
When starting out, you may want to do a little research before you begin. It may be helpful to figure out which style or variation would be best for you. Find a few studios in your area and see what types of classes they have to offer. Next, take a few classes and try a few teachers to see what you like and who you are most comfortable with. Most studios offer introductory specials to new yogis! So go to a class and have fun!
I happen to like and teach a very active vynassa style yoga class. Vynassa flows link movement and breathe while focusing on alignment so I feel it’s a great practice for athletes. I also personally enjoy it because it feels better on my body to continuously be moving and stretching rather than holding poses for longer periods of time while standing or seated on the floor. However, everyone is different so it’s important to find a class that is right for you! If you begin to attend a few classes per week, you will definitely start to see results!