Yoga for Sports Series: Some of the Benefits That Yoga Has on Athletes and Their Training
Of now, you've probably started to here about the touted benefits yoga has, both physically and mentally. Yoga can be a great style of exercise to stay fit and flexible, for any average person with a 9-5. It has been studied for it's benefits for helping people create a better-mind body connection, to help aide in pain relief (like easing arthritis symptoms), helping reduce stress symptoms, as well as just helping with overall "energy level and brighter moods", according to an article published on Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The questions as it pertains to this article: How can yoga also provide benefits to athletes and their training?
Truth is, people all around the world can benefit from the ancient practice of yoga, which yes, includes athletes who are training! The calm and flowing poses associated with yoga might not seem to fit with intense athletic training at first, but the benefits may be vast!
The Institute of Yoga for Sports Science, has become a great reference for discussing many of the ways yoga can be brought into sports and athletic training. Not just from the physical stand-point, but the standpoint of focus, calming nerves, and the shear power of the breath. We'll be referencing some of there findings throughout this post.
1. Improves Flexibility, Balance & Strength:
As an athlete, flexibility is important
for your training. More flexibility allows for a greater range of movement,
flow, strength, and often decreases your risk of injuries occurring. In short, the more flexible you are, potentially the more you can get
out of your athletic training, and sport in general.
Yoga for athletes, focuses a lot of it's efforts on joint and muscle flexibility. Increasing these aspects of flexibility is great for all kinds of sports, not limiting itself to just one genre. This can include anything from basketball to marathon running, golf, even bodybuilders.
Hopkins Medicine explains just this, discussing the efforts of slow movements and breathing, which can aid in increasing blood flow throughout the body, as well as warm-up muscle groups. This can be beneficial both before and after a training session. Many of the poses, this article exclaims, also helps to build strength. Yoga is multidimensional, versatile, and benefits many aspects of the self.
A blog post called: "Why Athletes Who Practice Yoga May Have the Advantage This Olympics" over at The Institute of Yoga Sports Science, exclaims that one of the benefits that "minimal sports-specific yoga" can provide is exposing them to different paces and tempos to their regular training, inevitably leading to these athletes working with less strain, and moving with less effort.
Another referenced article over at The Yoga Institute of Sports Science, discusses an approach to core strength outside the realm of simply doing crunches. It discusses the needs and ability of yoga maneuvers to target 5 different core muscles for stability, which you can read more about here!
Yoga has been a centerpiece in many studies looking at how it can aide in balance and flexibility. Like this published study in 2016, which compared athletes in a 10-week program; one of which was a "yoga group" and one was a "non-yoga group" measuring performance levels. Results indicated that their were significant gains in flexibility & balance in the YG from start to end of then program. Significant gains in joint angles, also were releveled. The study concluded that not just flexibility and balance improvements were seen, but whole body measures of college athletes.
According to a controlled clinical trial published in 2015, a growing number of research studies have showed Hatha yoga (a specific style of yoga practice) can lead to improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and "muscular strength".
2. Helps Increase Energy And Focus:
One theory behind the ability of yoga to enhance both energy and focused concentration lies within the basis of the practice itself. Yoga is about moving in a controlled manner. These asanas then flow into different positions. Simultaneously, the practitioner is attempting to relax the body through rhythmic breathing efforts, as well as developing and understanding awareness of bodily sensations, as they progress. Their is this unique mind-body connection, which may help contribute to bettering cognitive functioning such as attention span, and in general, concentration.
University Health News discusses the ability of yoga not just for physical benefits, but to help practitioners with focus, attention and memory.
Other research suggests that the yoga practice "seems" to be associated with moderate improvements in cognitive function. This information was attained from a meta analysis of acute studies and randomized control trials of yoga and cognitive outcomes.
Both yoga and meditation have shown to improve brain function and energy levels. The specific study of reference was out of the University of Waterloo which compared the acute effects of Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation on executive function and mood. Findings suggested that acute bouts benefit executive function and mood "to some degree".
3. Muscle/Body Endurance:
In fact, certain asanas have even been studied to investigate their benefits on physical fitness. One such pose is Sun Salutation. The purpose of one study was to look at the effectives of this asana on muscle strength, & general body endurance. Significant increases in endurance, shown by push-ups and sit-ups were found.