I work with a lot of sporty individuals skeptical about dedicating some time each week to practicing yoga.
Excuses vary from "I don’t have the time", to "I’m not flexible enough", to "I’m better off in the gym surely?"
While I can see a little bit of validity in each point (except for the point on flexibility… more on that here), I think it’s best to highlight some of the major reasons your favourite sports stars like LeBron James, Maria Sharapova, David Beckham and even Stone Cold Steve Austin are ditching the dumbbells for more mindful movement (anyone arguing that professional wrestling is not a sport gets stunner outside City Hall).
1 – Yoga Boosts Athleticism
Yoga boosts every major component of physical fitness, from core strength and balance, to flexibility and mobility - all of which play a key role in successful sporting performance.
So whether you need better rotation for your Maria Sharapova inspired serve, greater hip mobility to bend it like Beckham, flexible hamstrings to run the track like Jessica Ennis-Hill, or greater spinal strength to stunner your opponent like Steve Austin, yoga really could help fill the gaps in your existing fitness regime.
2 – Yoga improves mental clarity
Practice yoga and meditation regularly, and you’ll begin to recognise that the effects are much further reaching than the obvious physical. Yoga has been shown to lower stress, improve mental clarity, improve decision making skills, as well as increasing your confidence and mood.
So whether you need it to help clear your mind to make that free throw, to see a pass that your opponent can’t on the football pitch, to distance yourself from the stress of a hectic season or even just to decide which side to stick the penalty, yoga could help.
Of course some yogi encouragement from me will be giving Belfast Ravens an advantage this season!
3 – Yoga is Functional Movement
Practicing yoga regularly helps approach your training, or even everyday activities with confidence.
The slower, more controlled movements give you a greater sense of your body’s mechanical efficiency allowing for increased confidence in your ability to complete tasks with ease.
So - the more you practice yoga the less you have to worry about squatting down low to lift something from the ground, striving to reach that ball as it goes out of play thinking your never going to make it, or worrying if your opponent is too far away as you drop an elbow from the top rope oooooh yeah!
4 – Yoga Helps Prevent Injury
Put simply, the reason that so many top sporting teams are including yoga in their training regime is to protect their investments.
Yoga helps protect joints, increases strength, improves decision making, and helps reduce stress – all of which reduce the likelihood of injury, and create bulletproof athletes that thrive in the modern high pressure sporting world.
Preventing injury should be a key component of any fitness regime. Include yoga to prevent the likelihood of developing injuries in your sport, or simply sit back and enjoy as the worlds top sports stars are waking up to more mindful movement ensuring they are on show for us each and every week.
5 – Yoga Increases Mobility
Practicing yoga can be hugely beneficial for the joints. Why? Because yoga helps create strong, flexible muscles that in turn takes the pressure off joints, making controlled movement easier.
The deep, passive stretching found more commonly in yin yoga, could also help strengthen deep rooted fascia that connect, wrap around and support our bodies internal network like a spiders web. Kicking in to protect us when we need it.
Gaining control over the joints, particularly in that all important end range, is a common feature of most yoga practices, and is something that could help you thrive over a long sporting season.