Yoga is a great cross-training exercise for anyone who participates in physical activities, including casual and professional athletes. It’s even become popular with NFL players like Pittsburg Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu, a two-time Super Bowl Champion who was 2010’s NFL Most Valuable Player of the Year. There really isn’t any sport that yoga can’t enhance a participant’s overall performance.
Yoga serves to help balance the body as well as the mind. Those who have better balance are less prone to injury; by practicing yoga postures as well as breathing work it can help rebalance, strengthen and restore those muscles and joints that are overtaxed. Balancing the mind through yoga also helps improve mental focus that can markedly improve athletic performance.
By focusing on your breath and engaging your muscles, you’ll be creating core stability and increasing its strength. Your body uses its core for nearly every activity it performs – by working your core, you’ll be able to run faster and perform better.
Former San Francisco 49ers’ safety, Tony Parrish used yoga to build his core strength noting that it improved his reaction time. When he suffered an ankle and fibula injury, he used yoga to regain strength in his leg.
Yoga is well known for its ability to improve flexibility and athletes have been able to gain power, speed and force due to its outstanding benefits. Flexibility is something that many people don’t think of when it comes to working out, but everyone – and athletes in particular, can benefit from becoming more flexible through the practice of yoga which will also increase range of motion, decrease injury risk and improve an athlete’s game.
For people who have limited flexibility, using props such as a strap or stability ball is a great way to modify a pose while still improving their ability to be flexible, challenging balance and increasing core strength.
Taking fitness to new levels
Those who thought yoga was just for girls are likely to quickly change their mind. The mental as well as the physical challenges can be a revelation for many people, including athletes. By isolating specific muscle groups and focusing on the quality of the movement rather than quantity, it can reveal imbalances and allow participants to improve areas that are newly exposed as weaker than others. In turn, those who are active in yoga will become more in tune and reach levels of fitness that were never thought possible before.
If yoga was for wimps, would NFL players really be promoting this activity? Everyone can benefit from practicing yoga!
Lisa Mason is a youth sports coach, mom to five and fan of all things sports and fitness. You can see more articles like this at Sports Zone Media.