Today, there is more physical demand on athletes than ever before. They have to hit harder, run faster, and play longer. This takes a toll on the body, especially for those who do it professionally.
Growing up as a dancer, I always felt like I had an advantage over other athletes when I played sports. Now, I see how how dance and yoga have helped me, and how they're useful to athletes, too.
Here are six ways yoga can help you as an athlete:
Body weight training, like dance and yoga, is one of the best types of strength training you can do. These activities engage multiple muscle groups, which help you burn more calories and gain more strength in a shorter time.
Because body weight training helps multiple areas with a few exercises, the muscles are leaner as well as stronger. This helps people looking to gain strength without the associated “bulk up” of weight training.
Flexible muscles are strong muscles. Because athletes are particularly brutal on their bodies, it’s important to maintain flexibility to help prevent muscle strains, sprains, and tears.
With flexible muscles, your tendons and ligaments also become more flexible, which reduces the chance of major injury, especially to ACLs, MCLs, shoulders, and wrists. Flexibility also helps to increase speed because a longer muscle can stretch more, which gives you quicker reflexes.
By having strength and flexibility, you will also have power. Whether you’re running, batting, or dunking, you’ll be able to do that with greater “oomph.” Stronger and longer muscles, tendons, and ligaments will be able to propel your motion with (seemingly) less effort.
Through activities like dance and yoga, you’ll find your center and have more balance. Balance is absolutely critical for athletes, especially those required to change directions quickly or be light on their feet.
Athletes must also stay strong through their core muscle groups to maintain optimum balance. By maintaining strength through these core muscles, not only will your balance improve, but your posture will, too!
Coordination comes slowly to many athletes. Many people associate coordination with walking and chewing gum at the same time, but it’s much more than that. Coordination is being able to run while dribbling a ball, noticing your opponents and teammates and their position to you, then complete the play as desired, and more.
This is typically only attained by the crème de la crème of athletes, which is why they are professionals. Coordination is something everyone can (and should) attain by practicing dance and/or yoga.
Many athletes, both professional and amateur, are simply unaware of what is happening within their bodies. Through dance or yoga, you'll become more aware of every movement within your body.
You'll feel each muscle move, each tendon adjust, and each ligament stretch, allowing your body to perform at its peak. Athletes who have reached this level of internal awareness are often able to sense when something is not quite “right” in their movements. This knowledge can save careers if the body’s warning signs are heeded.
What athlete wouldn’t want to be stronger, faster, more powerful, balanced, and aware of each movement? Even if you never intend to go pro with your sport, these qualities certainly can’t hurt you.
You’ll never know when these things come in handy.