Can Regular Yoga Practice Improve Sports Performance?

Yoga Instruction

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If you are looking for a creative way to get strength and resistance training while improving range of motion and balance, yoga may be a good addition to your workouts. Yoga may be the perfect cross-training method for athletes of all sports. Yoga can help athletes develop better breathing techniques while it improves balance, flexibility, core strength, and even endurance.

Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

Practicing yoga regularly can help improve your sports skills and overall fitness.

Develop Deep, Relaxed Breathing

If you participate competitively in sport or simply join the occasional fun run on a whim, you are aware of the impact breathing can have on performance. Deep, relaxed breathing is the foundation of reducing performance anxiety and improving concentration. Yoga will help you develop a habit of breathing correctly. Yoga practice integrations the mind-body connection and athletes can benefit from this combination of skills training.

Increase Core Strength

Yoga poses are all about building core strength. The slow, focused movements require a strong midsection and the isometric contractions of many exercises will add a new form of resistance training to your typical machine-based workouts.

Increase Flexibility and Range of Motion

Yoga routines incorporate slow, steady flexibility exercise that is ideal for athletes. Frequent yoga training may increase flexibility and range of motion while relieving muscle tension. Whether you are a runner or a golfer, improved range of motion can often help improve performance.

Improve Balance

Yoga is a perfect way to incorporate balance exercises into your training routine. Balance exercises are often overlooked by athletes but are one of the most effective ways to correct muscle imbalance or body mechanic problems. With most sports and weight training routines, you tend to perform repetitive motions that develop some muscle groups while others are ignored. Yoga can fix these imbalances.

Use for Cross Training

Yoga is a great low-impact way to cross train. Cross training is necessary for athletes who do the same sport or exercise routine year-round. Adding new exercises can help reduce injury, relieve training boredom, add variety and help you recover from hard aerobic or strength workouts. Yoga can be done at a high or low intensity and there are hundreds of postures that can provide a workout for any athletic need.

Choose from Many Styles

There are many styles of yoga that range from very dynamic, active, movements that go from one posture to another (and result in a thorough aerobic workout) to more slow-paced practices that hold postures for several minutes and form an intense strength training and balance workout.

Practice Safely

While yoga is an excellent exercise option, it isn't without risk, so you need to learn how to prevent yoga injuries.

While much of the benefit of yoga practice is still based on subjective feedback from participants, more research is looking closely at positive health outcomes from yoga. Studies reported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health have linked yoga practice with decreased low back pain and less reported chronic pain from arthritis, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as lower blood pressure, heart, breathing rates, and reduced insomnia.

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.