Over the years, the stereotypical image of a yogi has evolved from the friendly-hippie guru to, well, just about anyone. More and more diverse communities are embracing yoga for its wellness benefits, both mental and physical. Among these new converts are competitive athletes. In a world where a split-second injury can be potentially career ending, this unlikely community has steadily begun embracing yoga as a non-traditional way of keeping themselves limber and injury-free — even discovering some unexpected mental benefits along the way. To all you jocks out there who still aren’t convinced, here’s the top three reasons to integrate yoga into your training program — pronto!
1. Being injured sucks.
Need I say more? If you’ve ever been injured you know what I’m talking about. Yoga helps prevent injuries by stabilizing joints, improving balance and proprioception, increasing muscle pliability, and building core strength. The practice helps to balance out imbalances that result from the repetitive stress of your sport, and trains the body as an integrated unit — which is hugely beneficial because a body in balance is far less likely to be injured.
2. Get your game face on.
Performance anxiety kills performance. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the talent of Michael Jordan — if you can’t handle the pressure of competitive sports you won’t play to your potential. Yoga helps you quiet the endless parade of thoughts — ‘Will I make the shot?’, ‘What if I don’t win the race?’, ‘This is all riding one me,’ — allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the task at hand. If you stop worrying about winning and instead stay fully engaged play-by-play, you’re by default more likely to win.
3. Sometimes less is more.
You can’t play your best if you’re wiped out. Valuing your recovery is a major key to success. Sometimes it’s not that extra workout that will make you better — rather it’s that extra recovery time that allows your body to absorb all your hard work so that you can hit the track, court, or field refreshed and ready to go. No matter your sport, yoga is a powerful recovery tool.