Yoga for the athlete

Many practitioners of Yoga do asanas to benefit other aspects in other
sports. For many people, yoga is a great way to work on things that
athletic practice and performance. Flexibility, balance, focus,
muscular endurance, and small muscle development are all very
important aspects of competitive sport.
Combat sports like Chinese Wushu and Taekwondo for example are
extremely demanding on hamstring, hip flexor, groin, and quadricep
flexibility. In these sports, inflexibility in these muscles can often
translate into decrease of speed in kicks, an increased chance of
muscle injury, and decrease in ability to react appopriately in
attacking or defending. Generally speaking, the more flexible a muscle
is, the less energy is needed during flexion and extension. For a
performance athlete in most sports, the conservation of energy during
muscle movements is extremely important. Forward bends, the warrior
asanas, and hip openers are all very beneficial to this type of
flexibility, and ultimately can lead to an increase in speed, injury
prevention, and overall performance.
Many standing asanas such as eagle, dancer’s pose, and uttitha
trikonasana in yoga can improve balance. This improvement in balance
can be attained through strengthening of the core, and also
strengthening of small muscles around joints such as the ankle and
knee. An improvement of balance directly benefits agility and overal
athelticism of an athlete. Agile athletes are more likely to protect
themselves from injury, react with higher speed, and are able to
expend less energy when reacting to situations.
During the asana practice, focus is constantly being trained as the
practitioner maintains a steady breath or a gazing point. As an
athlete, the ability to not respond to other unimportant things
happening around is an extremely valuable skill.
Muscular endurance, like focus is something constantly being trained
when doing yoga. While many sports train explosive violent movements,
yoga is almost exclusively based on slow paced controlled movements.
Generally, the slower an activity is, the higher demand on muscular
endurance is. Utkatasana, navasana, and durasana to name a few are
very demanding on our muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is
valuable to an athlete as it makes athlete’s more restistant to
fatigue.