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April 26, 2016 by
Jay Medley
Have you heard your favorite professional athlete mentioning that yoga is part of their fitness regime? Yoga is great for athletes, no matter what sport you practice because you can choose a yoga style that complements the training you do. Yoga can increase your flexibility, improve balance, build muscle, help you breathe better, and improve focus. Yoga can also be used therapeutically to help heal after injuries.

There are different styles of yoga, and each one has its own benefits. If you already have an intense training schedule, Gaiam recommends choosing a more relaxing, restorative yoga style. These types of classes will allow you to stretch your muscles and breathe more deeply so that more oxygen will get to your healing muscles. If you’re looking to build more muscles and get a bigger workout, try a more intense, athletic form of yoga like Vinyasa or Ashtanga.

Keep in mind that your instructor may blend styles, and even a muscle-building style can be therapeutic if the right moves are used for your needs (it can be used to rebuild muscles after injuries.) Talk to your yoga instructor about which of their classes might best fit your needs, or seek out an instructor who teaches the style that best fits your training.

No matter what style of yoga fits your training needs, all yoga will help you to become a better athlete by helping you do the following better:

Better Breathing – All styles of yoga put a lot of focus on proper breathing. You need to inhale deeply and control your breath, making you more aware of your breathing. This deep inhalation will get more oxygen into your bloodstream, which will deliver it to your muscles. This is important both for recovering from training sessions and for performing in your sport; the more oxygen that gets to your muscles, the better they can perform. By controlling your breath, you will learn how to breathe properly and can use the learned techniques for training and competition.

Better Flexibility – Yoga helps to improve flexibility because you’ll be stretching and holding poses that will loosen tight muscles and increase joint mobility. You’ll develop a better range of motion, which will help you to perform better and can also help to prevent injury.

Better Balance – You may not think about balance in many sports, but it does help in any sport to have good balance. You’ll develop better balance from holding difficult poses; yoga builds the core muscles that are crucial to better balance. Yoga also improves posture, which allows you to hold your body in proper alignment. When your body is properly aligned, you will decrease the risk of injury and may reduce pain.

Better Focus – Any successful athlete knows the importance of focus. Practicing yoga can help to improve your focus and mental strength. Think about it: all of your attention has to go to your form so you can hold the pose and to your controlled breathing. You clear your mind of all other distractions, like you have to while competing. As for mental strength, holding some of those advanced poses requires both physical and mental stamina.

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