Yoga is not just for slim girls in yoga pants anymore. More athletes, including professionals, are finding the benefits of yoga. If you think yoga is a waste of your precious time lifting weights or doing cardio, think again. Developing a steady practice can actually help you get stronger. You will learn to control your body and your mind. Yoga for athletes has numerous benefits that improve performance.
Taking a More Athletic Approach to Yoga
Have you thought about doing yoga for fitness, to get in shape, yet still explore the mind-body connection? Then choose a more vigorous yoga style like power yoga. Power Yoga will combine an athletic series of poses into a vigorous, total-body workout. Workout fads come and go, but virtually no exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years.
Power Yoga Can Boost Athletic Performance
There are many different forms of yoga but for the sake of this blog post let’s just focus on Power Yoga. The truth of the matter is that putting your body through any repetitive movement will eventually create muscular imbalances and lead to injury. Flexibility keeps muscles and joints safe. Chances are if you’re using the same muscles for repetitive movements they’re going to be pretty tight. Incorporating yoga into your existing routine might be exactly what your body needs in order to improve.
If you’re new to yoga, you may need to first start with a few beginner classes so that you can better understand each pose so you can easily move through them. Yoga is not just about striking a pose. Yoga can help boost power, keep you injury-free, and help you build more muscle in the long run. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening, stretching, and balance poses using deep breathing.
Some power yoga classes are fast-paced and intense; others are slow flow and hold. The intensity of your yoga workout depends on the yoga instructor. You will need to find the one best suited to your needs or try them all for the variety. Want to maximize it all? Try any one of the Hot Yoga classes at Elite where an instructor will start with a Vinyasa class adding more to make the pose more challenging. The music will be different as well as it brings the energy level up.
Let’s focus on the areas it targets
Core: There are yoga poses to target just about every core muscle. Want to tighten those love handles? Then prop yourself up on one arm and do a side plank. To really burn out the middle of your abs, you can do boat pose, in which you balance on your “sit bones” and hold your legs up in the air.
Legs: Yoga poses work all sides of the legs, including your quadriceps, hips, and thighs.
Glutes: Yoga squats, bridges, and warrior poses involve deep knee bends, which give you a more sculpted butt, what I refer to as ‘Yoga buns.’
Arms: With yoga, you don’t build arm strength with free weights or machines, but with the weight of your own body. Some poses, like the plank, spread your weight equally between your arms and legs. Others, like the crane and crow poses, challenge your arms even more by making them support your full body weight.
Back: Moves like downward-facing dog, child’s pose, and cat/cow give your back muscles a good stretch. It’s no wonder that research finds yoga may be good for relieving a sore back.
Flexibility: Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. With regular practice, they’ll improve your flexibility.
Aerobic: Yoga isn’t considered aerobic exercise, but the more athletic varieties, like power yoga, will make you sweat. And even though yoga is not aerobic, some research finds it can be just as good as aerobic exercise for improving health.
Strength: It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in a balanced pose. Regular practice will strengthen the muscles of your arms, back, legs, and core.
Sport: Yoga is not competitive. Focus on your own practice and don’t compare yourself to other people in your class. That’s why we call it a practice, not a performance.
Low-Impact: Although yoga will give you a full-body workout, it won’t put any impact on your joints.
AH-Savasana: The best part about yoga is usually the end of class – the savasana. A time to meditate a time to connect with breath, feeling rooted and rested. Yoga, do it. It’s worth every bit of time and investment.
Written by Tom Feest, CYT, ERYT, Elite Sports Clubs Yoga Director.
Tom Feest (a.k.a. yogaman) is a Certified & Registered Yoga Teacher and the director of Exhale Studios for all five Elite Sports Clubs locations throughout the Milwaukee area. Tom instructs many variations of Yoga including Beginners, Restorative, Hot, Vinyasa Flow, and Power Flow which is his favorite. He continues his education regularly attending conferences and additional seminars to stay current with the ever-changing world of yoga.