What exactly is yoga? We hear the term all the time and we know that it has something to do with deep breathing and certain poses, but what exactly is it? Yoga is a set of disciplines that involve the mind and body. The art that combines body toning with mental relaxation was developed in ancient India with roots in the Hindu tradition.
Yoga has been proven to have several beneficial effects on the physical and mental well-being of those who practice it. Some of the benefits of yoga include better muscle tone, improved metabolism, weight loss, increased flexibility, and higher energy levels. Yoga has also been found to help athletes in many ways.
How yoga benefits athletes
Athletes need high levels of energy both to train and to perform while playing their sport. Being an athlete takes hard work and dedication and adds a lot of stress on the body. Here are the ways yoga helps to relieve the bodily stress that athletes encounter:
- Improved strength: While doing yoga, a lot of poses require you to hold up your own weight. The manner of holding a pose while concentrating on your breathing helps to strengthen the muscles and improve the overall body strength.
- Flexibility: Yoga is all about stretching and toning the muscles. The gradual increase in stretching the muscles helps to make them more flexible. The deep breathing techniques also help increase the oxygen supply to the muscles.
- Balance: Athletes often need to be fast and have quick reflexes; yoga improves your physical balance, giving you better control over your body. Good balance doesn’t just mean you are less prone to falling. Yoga gives you better muscle control to prevent injuries from straining a muscle too much.
- Mental stability: Competitive sports can be very stressful. Even the fittest of athletes can at times buckle under pressure and not give their best performance. Yoga helps in strengthening the mind. The practices improve focus and endurance, equipping athletes to stay calm under pressure and giving their best even in stressful situations. The meditative practices included in yoga teach you how to focus your mind and use your breathing to relax both the mind and body. Once mediation has become a habit, it becomes an invaluable tool in helping you through tough times.
- Improved core strength: The poses or asanas in yoga work to improve core strength. Exercising and building the muscles that are engaged in the sport is easier for those who are used to it but building core strength can be tricky. Yoga builds strength in the very center of the body that ultimately stabilizes the whole being.
Athletes who include yoga as part of their training routine have a definite advantage over those who don’t. The increased focus, balance, and flexibility, among other benefits, give athletes that extra edge when it comes to crunch time. Whether it be a team sport, track event or competitive swimming, the athlete who has that added bit of endurance stands a better chance at beating the odds.