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Typically, competitive athletes focus on strength training with weights. Building strength and muscle mass has its benefits but also dramatically decreases overall flexibility. Loss of flexibility places human joints under greater stress and can often lead to injury and ultimately surgery.
Many international sports clubs have utilized yoga training to enhance performance and recovery. Yoga provides the mental benefits of improved focus and concentration and enables the athlete to control the emotional stresses which occur in any competitive activity focusing on correct breathing techniques while stretching and balancing enhances an athlete’s ability to deal with these stresses during a competitive event.
Whether you are a competitive athlete or just a “weekend warrior” yoga can assist with cultivating balance and core strength while helping the muscles, tendons and ligaments move through a full safe range of motion. Tailoring your yoga practice to your training schedule works best since each sport works a specific muscle group, potentially causing an imbalance, which may set the athlete up for injuries later. Yoga poses will work all the major muscle groups involved (spine, shoulders, abdominals, hips, legs, ankles and more) to help build posture, balance and strength.
The health benefits of yoga for sports performance athletes are numerous -- with continued practice your heart rate and blood pressure can decrease resulting in overall improved cardiac efficiency. Posture can improve due to increased musculoskeletal and joint flexibility. Improvements may also be seen in strength, endurance, energy levels, immunity and overall decreased pain.
Lois Maple, PT, is Therapy Services Manager at OrthoCarolina Winston-Salem Physical Therapy.