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.