Yoga and Sport

Yoga provides lot of benefits to each individual. Some practise yoga as a font of exercise to increase flexibility, improve core strength and/or balance. Other may have derived tremendous benefits – improvement of health, cure of illness/disease, self-wellness and peace through year of practices.
My main focus is to highlight how yoga can be beneficial for all who are actively involved in any sport activity. Yoga can be incorporated in the training schedule. Some sport celebrities such as tennis pros – Peter Sampras, Venus and Serena Williams; golfer – Tiger Wood and ruby team – New Zealand All Black have practised yoga to improve their core strength, flexibility, coordination and help to heal or prevent injuries.
The following are some key reasons how regular yoga practice can improve an athletics performance:
1)      Enhances recovery – Lactic acid is generated in the muscle tissue especially doing anaerobic exercises which are high-intensity activities. It may cause muscle cramp and seize, which will affect the performance. Yoga can help to remove the lactic acid by gently circulating lactic acid out of muscle tissue and into the blood stream where it will make its way to the liver for processing. By doing yoga, it is believed that it improves the sleep patterns as well which is important to all athletes after a hectic training program.
2)      Reduces injury and restores balance. Athletes usually engage only certain part of the muscle or one side of the body which cause imbalances in the body. This is due to the excessive usage of that group of muscles and may result chronic injuries. For example, cycling and running have very repetitive movements usually in one direction and in one plane of motion. Tight hamstrings and hip flexors will cause the body to recruit from other joints, joints not intended for bearing extra loads. By practising various asana, it challenges the muscle by demanding total engagement and deep stabilization especially muscles that we rarely consciously engage in our game or exercise. Balance muscle strength promotes injury-prevention and improve performance.
3)      Improves core strength and flexibility. Yoga involves moving the body in various directions and angles and often in an unusual relationship to gravity. Together with the slow movement, it improves the core strength and flexibility. For example, those who are in golf and racket games, will notice the improvement in their swings as a result of this flexibility of muscles and joints. Similarly, with the reduction in muscle tension, less amount of energy is required for those movement, which allows an athlete to perform at the higher level and/or longer intervals.
4)      Improves body awareness and focus. Yoga teaches us to be aware of every sensation in the body and to become our own body’s expert. Through this, we understand, listen and respond to the messages that the body is trying to communicate with us. Together with focusing on the breath, it calms and clears our mind.
5)      Improves lung capacity and breathing. Pranayama exercises and bigger and deeper breaths will improve the lung capacity and strength. A strong diaphragm and lung walls will allow the athlete to pump more air efficiently and thoroughly through the body. Hence, it will improve the performance and concentration. Similarly, it will reduce anxiety.
Thought there are lot of benefits from practising Yoga, it is important to incorporate the right style of yoga in the training program so that it will not introduce over-training or any other adverse effects.
200hr Weekend (Jul-Oct 2013)

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