Thinking of stretching your training routine to include a new sport? Today, we explore adding yoga to the mix.
When you think of ways to improve as an athlete, yoga may not be the first route that comes to mind. But this ancient practice might just hold the key to taking your training up a notch.
Broadly speaking, yoga focuses on mindfulness, breath control, and body positioning or posing. The idea is to take your body and mind as it is and push it as hard as you can without becoming overwhelmed. The pace and depth of breathing is always a focus, as is the precise location movement of each part of your body. This mindfulness and acceptance of your body serves as a tool of escape from the thousand different distractions of the day and force you to be present in that moment, in that movement, and in that breath.
If that wasn’t enough to pique your interest, yoga has been found to reduce the body’s harmful responses to stress. Regular practitioners of yoga generally have a lower heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. They also have shown lower stress responses to physical pain (pretty helpful a few miles out from the finish line, huh?). Its effects on stress—a leading contributor to dangerous and chronic conditions among adults—have led mental health professionals to integrate yoga into treatment plans.
Now, let’s talk about those cross-training goals. Even if your only experience with yoga is seeing it done in movies, one thing seems pretty clear: it improves flexibility. You won’t be expected to reach your foot up over your back to part your hair on day one. Or ever. But practicing the poses regularly will lead to better technique as your flexibility improves and your range of motion expands.
Without further ado, here are some ways yoga can help you in your current sport (assuming that sport is running, cycling, or swimming):
- Yoga for Runners – We know, there is a constant debate on how flexible runners really need to be. Runners should, however, be comfortable for long periods performing in the full range of motion needed to compete. Yoga will help ensure a greater comfort level as you run on flat, inclining, and declining terrain. The focus on mental awareness and mindfulness—essentially controlling body, focus, and attention through difficult physical endeavors—are also invaluable as runners practice the mind-over-body tricks to deal with pain on endurance runs.
- Yoga for Cyclists – The benefits for an athlete who spends so much time on two in-line wheels is pretty clear. Yoga, at any level, will require work on balance and stability. The movements and positions required will also strengthen many of the muscles essential in cycling in the core, buttocks, groin, hips, and legs. You’ll also see the added benefit of engaging those back and arm muscles sometimes neglected in typical training sessions.
- Yoga for Swimmers – While the flexibility debate rages for runners, swimmers seem to be convinced: the more, the better. Yoga improves flexibility and engages all the muscles needed to transition from one pose to another and hold those poses. While moving from one pose to another, mindfulness is key—the same mindfulness that keeps your body in constant rhythm and alignment in the water.
Ready to Unroll the Mat?
Do your research before you jet to the first studio in your city or download some app on your smart TV. There are many types of yoga and each variation has its specific goals. Talk to your friends, co-workers or other athletes who practice yoga. Call yoga instructors and get their story—Any experience teaching yoga to athletes? What yoga practice do they recommend for you?
As with any sort of physical activity, when done correctly, the benefits will be amazing. When done poorly, injury and setbacks are almost inevitable.
Do you already integrate yoga into your training routine? What other benefits do you think yoga has to offer the cross-training athlete? Tell us your thoughts. We’re always available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If cramping is what’s stressing you out, you’ve come to the right place—HOTSHOT is the only product scientifically proven to prevent and treat muscle cramps. Pick some up today!
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