With its focus on flexibility, coordination and balance, yoga can be an extremely beneficial addition to any athlete’s workout routine. Yoga not only trains and strengthens the body, but also sharpen an athlete’s concentration and focus. With so many different types of yoga available, there is no simple or easy list of the best yoga poses or practices for athletes.
Generally, athletes from any sport can handle the damands and reap the benefits of the two most common types of yoga: Hatha and Vinyasa. Ashtanga yoga helps to improve balance and stretch the back muscles, making it beneficial for runners and cyclists. On the other hand, Iyengar yoga focuses on body alignment and precise, rigid movements, making it ideal for tennis players and golfers. Bikram yoga follows a specific series of 26 yoga poses performed in a room heated at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Bikram yoga can provide an excellent and effective stretch for nearly all the body’s muscles, since heat helps the body relax. However, this type of yoga is extremely intense, and athletes should be cautious of overtraining or overexerting the body.
When done regularly, yoga can offer a wide variety of physical and mental benefits for athletes. Physically, yoga can help increase flexibility, improve balance and strengthen the core muscles. Since most athletes work the same muscle groups excessively, they often experience physical imbalances. For example, basketball players can execute movements perfectly while perched on the balls of their feet. However, once they are asked to maintain a flat-footed position, the movements become more difficult. Yoga helps restore balance to the body, which relieves stress and tension on muscles and joints. Regular yoga practice also helps to prevent injuries and accelerate recovery. Mentally, yoga helps improve an athlete’s concentration and focus during practices and games. In fact, many athletes who practice yoga regularly are able to stay focused and relaxed even during high-intensity games.
Although most athletes are in peak physical condition, the physical demands of yoga may still be overwhelming. The "Yoga Journal" website likens an athlete to “a guitar string that you tighten up and tighten up to get the highest possible resonance. But then you just turn it the tiniest bit and it explodes.” Before attempting difficult yoga postures, athletes should first focus on mastering the basic poses. Avoid injury by warming the body up with gentle stretches and focused breathing.
During the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-1998 preseason training camp, the basketball players had scheduled yoga workouts every day after regular practice. Their yoga instructor’s goal was to not only improve their physical capabilities, but also achieve a more relaxed mental state. According to the "Yoga Journal," the instructor’s hard work seemed to pay off. After losing the first game of the championship series that year, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls seemed relatively unconcerned. When asked about his calm demeanor, he responded, “I just decided to use a little bit of Zen Buddhism and relax; instead of being frustrated, I just smiled, channeled my thoughts and let the game flow.”