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How Yoga Helps Athletes Play Better, Smarter, & Longer by Alisa Cherrie


Yogis come in different shapes and sizes. We all practice for different reasons, but did you know that it is becoming increasingly popular in the world of sports? Yes, the benefits of a consistent yoga practice can help athletes play better, smarter and longer. 

Develops body awareness

As we have discussed here on the Clever Yoga blog, yoga is essentially mindful meditation. It helps us listen to the subtle cues of the body, understand different positions and heed its calls to slow down— these are all essential skills that athletes must possess.

Even if your practice is relatively new, yoga helps cultivate body awareness that can be directly applied to any sport of your choosing. LeBron James uses balancing balls as a tool to help him discover his body’s damage due to wear and tear, after decades of playing basketball.

If you really take the time to examine, you may start to notice aches that may not have been there before or imbalances that may affect your athletic ability. Yoga gives you an introspective look at your own body, so you can attend to these small, but critical details. 

Reduces injury risk

In yoga we like to say that no pose is flawless but there is optimal alignment. While you should accept that you may never achieve perfection, any pose that you do must work towards the ideal posture. Proper posture is important in the fields of yoga and athletic sports.

When you are actively working towards the ideal pose, you are also refining your technique. A Warrior pose teaches you to stack your knee over the ankles to prevent injuries, a practice you can apply in a number of sports poses such as squatting before you explode into a jump.

Ultimately, these small adjustments leave you less vulnerable to injuries. Detroit Pistons power forward Blake Griffin revealed to Sports Illustrated that yoga relaxes his muscles which leads to better performance on the court. When your body is tight, your posture and technique are compromised so keeping them loose, as Griffin says, will definitely help.

Improves overall physical fitness

While meditation is an important aspect of yoga, one cannot deny its benefits on physical conditioning. The New York Times cited a study stating that it even qualifies as an aerobic exercise when performed in a relatively fast pace.

One style that fits this description is Vinyasa/Power where yogis flow through the postures, effectively working up a sweat and increasing endurance. To illustrate, we can look at soccer coach and former player Ryan Giggs who’s had an impressive 23-year career with Manchester United. His secret? Yoga. Giggs took up yoga which he credited with having a big impact on maintaining his fitness and extending his playing career.

As an athlete, building stamina is a must because that’s how you can outlast your competition. Even if you’re at an age where you're expected to retire, yoga will improve your flexibility and longevity.

Cultivates mindful breathing

It may not be obvious in sports outside of swimming or running, but mastering your breath is essential for athletic success. Professional tennis player Johanna Konta turned to yoga to refine her breathing techniques.

Proper breathing helps with the efficiency of movements as it increases oxygen supply to the muscles. Aside from that, you can use it to eliminate distractions and sharpen your focus.

Written by Alisa Cherrie
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