Another essential element in yoga is breath work or pranayama. The attention to breath during yoga can be considered one of the most important benefits to athletes. Learning to stay focused and centered through uncomfortable poses by concentrating on even inhalations and exhalations sets up the athlete to stay focused during a race or challenging workout. The mind-body connection in yoga is essential to helping athletes develop mental acuity and concentration. In addition, yoga helps you to relax not just tight muscles, but also anxious and overstressed minds. Being more relaxed will also aid in athletic performance.
Where to Start
Yoga has been practiced for around 5,000 years and several schools of yoga have emerged over time. It can be overwhelming at first to find a style of yoga that resonates with you. If you are a competitive athlete, it is best to tailor your yoga practice to your training schedule. On a day where you are completing a long run for example, you'll want relaxing, mellow yoga. If you have an off-day, a vigorous, dynamic class will help you build strength and endurance.
You can choose from dynamic styles like Ashtanga yoga and Power yoga that consist of a rigorous flowing series of poses synchronized with breath to produce internal heat and purifying sweat. Alternatively, Bikram yoga is a set series of 26 static poses performed in 105-degree room. Iyengar focuses primarily on anatomical precision and alignment in poses, with an emphasis on healing the body and mind using postures. Anusara is a tantric-based system that combines alignment with awareness of energy flow in the body. Finally, there are restorative styles such as gentle Hatha and Yin yoga which feature longer holds.
Yoga 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. If you attend a few classes per week and/or a few 10-15 minute sessions at home, you will obtain fast results. A simple way to add in yoga is to perform your short sessions pre- or post-workout. Try it and see for yourself.
Claire Petretti is a RYT yoga instructor, NASM certified personal trainer, certified pilates teacher and freelance writer residing in San Diego, California. In addition to training clients privately, she teaches at Sculpt Fusion Yoga, Frogs and CorePower Yoga. You can learn more about Claire and yoga on her website www.oceansoulyoga.com.