February 25, 2016

The Intersection of Yoga and Sports

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The benefits that drip from the cornucopia of yoga are abundant. The practice focuses on strength, flexibility, agility, endurance, core and stability. Although it does require supplementary cardio training and should not be practiced on its own for all exercise, it still reaps a concentration of really important skills and abilities.

Because of the focus on stretching, yoga helps protect the body and prevent injuries. Conversely, it can also help athletes (or anyone) in their process of recovering from injuries. It is important to provide counter-actions to hard-working muscles. The repetition of overworking your body has to be interrupted and soothed. We are not built to last the abuse without taking care of ourselves properly. Yoga provides us with that fix.

But perhaps the greatest benefit is that it can help change your approach to life. It allows for a mirror action in the mind — a sort of opening up and flexibility of thought. It even improves your sleep and reduces stress! Yoga has a meditative element found in savasana (corpse pose) when we can silence our minds and exhibit significant control.

As strange as it sounds, we are often our own worst enemies. But if we manage to turn off the negative mental chatter and the self-doubt, then we can excel. In this meditative state, we can lift the burden of fear and maintain a confidence that allows us to do what we have inside of us to do. In this way, athletes can harness the power in their minds instead of falling prey to it. This can apply to everything we do in life. Instead of being bogged down by the demands in our lives and the constant mental chatter, yoga can help teach us to turn off those voices and live in a more relaxed manner.

The discipline is growing to be quite trendy. It is inserting itself into the routines of many athletes. Specifically, it has been gaining a lot of momentum in the NBA. In Sports Illustrated, NBA player Blake Griffin once said, “For me, the mental part is just as big as the physical part. It kind of lets my mind be at ease and takes my mind off of whatever is going on.”

In the same article, the Los Angeles Clippers’ yoga-instructor, Kent Katich, says, “Yoga is about body awareness, body mindfulness. It’s about knowing your limitations and knowing your strengths. It’s getting [players] acquainted with details [of] what their restrictions are. Being put through these positions in a systematic way, they’re able to pay attention, so they don’t just go through the motions until something goes wrong.”

This is essential for both physical and mental health.

So the moral here is that yoga can help you improve at your sport and as a person.