The Benefits of Yoga for Athletes
For as long as I can remember I have been working with a lot of athletes. Previously this could be attributed to my own primarily athletic background and education but in the years since opening my yoga school, I have had more and more athletes that come to me for help.
There are many common factors in all of my students; many come from heavy sports backgrounds whether that is boxing, MMA, basketball, rugby or any other. They are usually past the age of 30 and they all have injuries of one kind or another.
The injuries most commonly seen in athletes can be knee injuries, hip injuries and broken shoulder ligaments, to name a few and to give you an overview of "why" allow me to share a personal example. Last year, after a motorbike accident, I had suffering an injury that resulted in the breaking of the ligament in my rotator cuff. While the accident left me with almost no scratches it did damage my shoulder to such a degree that for many months I was unable to use my arm. Upon doing my own research and finding out more about why this happens I learned that due to my past in boxing, the long training sessions and the continues repetitive strain I put on my shoulders with little to no relief. It's no secret that shoulder injuries are the most common type of injury associated with boxing and so the strain I put on the rotator cuff over the course of my career had played a part in its eventual demise.
When you’re young, especially between the ages of 21 and 30 - when the body reaches its peak physical potential, it’s easy for us to think we’ll last forever. When you’re young, you are in a constant race with yourself – needing to be better, to be faster, to be stronger. All noble on their own but when the mind is chasing the end goal with desolate determination it starts to tell you to do more, chase more, jump higher, run faster and the mental and especially physical strain you can put on yourself can grow to become a much bigger problem in the future if you are not releasing and rejuvenating some of that energy. Up to 2% of all athletes have been found to abuse some sort of substance, drug abuse happens for a multitude of reasons but the most common are the most obvious – to increase performance, to dull the stress of the pressures to perform, to cover up injuries and to treat a mental illness otherwise left untreated which is especially seen with depression which in a recent study prevailed enough to show that up to 15% of all male athletes suffer from depression and this number is even higher, 30%, for female athletes.
Usually, it is at this breaking point that I meet many of these people, which is why today I am working with many students coming from doing a lot of sports in the past to find that they have a lot of the same injuries, unhappy minds, and unstable lives.
On average athletes train around 6 hours every day that entails long, straining training sessions that will most definitely focus on strength, building muscles, increasing speed and so on. So when we begin to talk about yoga for athletes throw out any idea you have about what yoga is, delete that image you have in your head of a pretty blond standing on her arms with her legs drawn behind her head.
Instead, let's start at the begging.
Can you touch your toes?
Check. Jump down into a seated position and bend forward. Chances are, like most of the students that come to my yoga classes designed for athletes, the answer to that question is no. Take a minute to become aware of your body, are you feeling particularly sore anywhere, does your body feel heavy as if you may have difficulty moving it with agility and ease, does your knee hurt or your ankle maybe, do your muscles feel tight and limiting? Chances are at least one of those questions in some way applied to you and they all have something in common. They are stopping you from reaching your full potential.
Most of my students have already suffered their injuries and are forced to deal with them every single day. While practice helps immensely and aids in their gradual healing and improvement the injury itself rarely goes away once its there. So it's beyond important that younger athletes, in the peak of their careers, begin to understand the importance of yoga for sport as soon as possible.
The Benefits of Yoga for Athletes include:
• increased flexibility
• the prevention of injuries
• a better warm up
• faster recovery
• easier relaxation
• clear focus
• lighter and more agile body and movement
• stress relief
So will any kind of yoga work?
Well, yes and no. While you may consider the few stretches you do in your warm up before training as a type of yoga practice more factors come into that. InDepth Yoga Academy, my school, has special programs titled Yoga for Athletes because I understand what it's like. I understand not only the consistent rigorous training but also the mind and how it plays into it. I understand anxieties we get before a fight, or a game or a match. I understand the importance of keeping the mind stable and under control when fighting. Just as much as I understand that a typical yoga practice may be more annoying than beneficial to someone who trains 6 hours a day. So I design practices that focus primarily on three things, increasing flexibility – meaning stretching out the ligaments and muscles which in turn creates a whole heap of benefits, training the mind – which helps us control anxieties and improves focus, and training the breathing – allowing us to increase our oxygen intake and thus calm the mind, better nourish the body and control the emotions.
If you want to know more or join my program feel free to reach out to me and begin improving yourself at many of my locations worldwide!