Improve Sports Performance Through Yoga
Are you looking for a way to improve your sports performance, without risking overtraining and injuries? Then yoga could be the ideal addition to your training schedule.
Long recognised for its benefits in improving flexibility and reducing stress, yoga can also enhance the impact of strength and performance work. But how does an increase in flexibility actually help you? Read on to find out...
1. Yoga improves your range of motion.
Flexibility is about more than the vanity and pride of being able to fold yourself in half or touch your toes. It is defined as the range of motion of any given joint. Having a greater range of motion helps you to perform whatever action you are doing more fully, utilising the whole length of your muscle to transmit force.
An increased range of motion is also of benefit in a whole range of sportsspecific situations. Take the movement of the hips for example. In martial arts more open hips will increase the reach and flexion of your kick, and can help you to manoeuvre yourself out of a hold. For sprinters, releasing the hip flexors allows for a full extension of the stride, maximising speed and performance. And in CrossFit, improving your hip hinge range of motion is of benefit in all posteriorchain movements, including kettlebell swings and deadlifts.
2. Yoga helps prevent injuries.
One of the main reasons many athletes turn to yoga is to help them recover from injuries, which it can certainly do. Yoga’s effectiveness in reducing lower back pain has been shown in a number of clinical studies. But prevention, as they say, is better than a cure.
Increasing your flexibility, and general body awareness through the mindful movements of yoga, helps to improve your fluidity and ease of motion. When your movements are easier, freer and less inhibited, it stands to reason that you are far less likely to hurt yourself.
In addition, having a greater range of motion means that explosive or dynamic movements, whether that be kicks, jumps or lunges are more accessible to you. You don’t risk extending your muscles beyond their range of tolerance, forcing your tissues and tendons to strain or even tear. Recovery from tendon and ligament injuries can take weeks, sometimes months disruption to your training which is well worth avoiding.
3. Yoga maximises the effectiveness of your training.
Flexibility doesn’t just help with your sporting performance itself. It also helps you on your way to that performance, by enhancing the impact of your training.
Consider a basic squat. Tightness in the hips, glutes or lower back can inhibit your range of motion, preventing you from utilising the whole of your squat to build strength and lower
body power. Yoga exercises which release muscular and fascial tightness allow you to find a deeper, fuller squat, maximising the effectiveness of your strength training.
If your training tends to favour specific muscle groups, yoga can help to balance out any unevenness, allowing your body to come into proper alignment. The improved body mechanics which this facilitates lets you perform all your training more effectively, transmitting force efficiently in whatever you are doing.
In addition, your yoga sessions can help you to recover more quickly and effectively from your training. Yogic postures and stretches not only release tense muscles, but also help to boost circulation and lymphatic flow. This gives your body chance to process and remove metabolic byproducts quickly, accelerating muscle healing and regrowth.
Giving it a try
As an athlete, your performance is inevitably based on movement and mobility, and therefore the range of motion of your joints matters. If you know your flexibility leaves something to be desired, yoga is definitely worth a try.