Guest Blog Post by Aliyah Kaye
It is well established already that doing yoga offers plenty of benefits, which range from physical to mental. Doing yoga can even address sports injuries as competitive ski racer Chelsea Cleeton found out while attending VSOHA’s yoga therapy program. But that’s not all! Yoga can help you be a better athlete.
Yoga makes you stronger and more flexible. It improves your endurance, stability and balance. It also strengthens your core. In other words, yoga works on pretty much every aspect that an athlete needs to work on to get better. In short, you’re combining the benefits of strength and conditioning workouts, endurance training, stability and core exercises into one effective practice. So, when you enhance your strength, flexibility, endurance, stability, balance and core, you effectively transform yourself into a better athlete.
Wonder no more why even world-class athletes have incorporated yoga into their respective regimens. Most famously, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is a known yoga practitioner. A few years ago, in fact, the Akron, Ohio native credited yoga for his otherworldly stamina. Soon to turn 34 and already in his 16th NBA season, James is still going strong and is as durable as ever.
Soccer star Hope Solo is another well-known yoga practitioner. According to an Alloy feature on Solo, yoga has helped the former national team goalkeeper maintain her speed and agility — two hallmarks of her illustrious career between the posts. “A lot of times, simple stretching takes away from your speed,” Solo points out. “So, for me, dynamic yoga gives me the ability and empowers me to keep my speed and elongate my muscles.” She then notes that more and more athletes today are incorporating yoga into their fitness routines.
Then there’s this matter of learning how to listen to your body. Long-time yogi Kent Katich tells Sports Illustrated that yoga makes people more conscious of their body as it is “about body awareness and body mindfulness.” Widely known as the yoga guy of the NBA, Katich explains that yoga lets you know about your strengths and limitations. By knowing both, you will have a better feel and understanding of your body. You will, therefore, be able to identify issues before they become full-blown problems, or injuries.
Given all these benefits and the fact that yoga heightens body awareness, it isn’t surprising that athletes who practice it play at a high level for longer. James, of course, comes to mind, as he has shown no signs of slowing down at the age of 33. Solo, at 36, is still a force on the pitch. Fellow yoga practitioner Ryan Giggs hung up his cleats at 40 years old. Giggs is listed in Coral’s oldest soccer star list and has credited yoga for his remarkable fitness. Now the manager of the Wales national team, Giggs admitted to The Guardian that yoga has been the secret to his longevity. “Yoga has definitely helped me,” said the then 38-year-old Welshman. “It helps me train every day because it gives me the flexibility and the strength not only to play the game but to train as well.”
Then again, bear in mind that yoga only helps make you a better athlete. You will still have to do all the nitty-gritty of sports-specific training, like practice and hard work.
Written by Aliyah Kaye
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