Repeat after me: “Yoga isn’t only for yogis”. If you’re connected to sports in any way, you need to breathe, stretch, and create body awareness. And if you’re not, you need it twice as much!
Yoga is special because:
- It combines breathing with movement, boosting body awareness.
- It involves all the muscles of the human body.
- It balances out your mind, which is especially necessary for athletes taking part in vigorous competitions.
While the focus of this article will be on yoga for athletes, you should understand that any physical activity you do on a daily basis is related to a sport. Jogging, gardening, delivering, packing, carrying, etc. all need good mobility and a mind-body connection.
So, for the people who still think yoga is ‘lazy training’ and for those who genuinely want to learn more about yoga stretches and their benefits, I’ve compiled this science-based FAQ. Here, you’ll find everything from ‘why do it’ and the tips on how to start to the big names allegedly doing yoga for athletes and best practices.
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What Are The Benefits Of Yoga Stretches?
- Performance improvement (4).
- Mind and body relaxation.
- Injury prevention.
- Balance improvement (7).
- Flexibility boost (7).
- Sleep improvement (3).
- Sore muscles soothing.
- Better cardiovascular performance (5).
- Stress relief (6).
- Healthy recovery boost (11).
Remember that time when you worked out after a long pause and found out about a billion new muscles in your body that can ache. Well, yoga will decrease the pain and prevent it in the future. Plus, it will improve your mind-body connection and make you mindful of your breathing, which will help you during the next workout.
Is Yoga Good For Athletes?
First of all, read the answer to the previous question.
Talking strictly about sportspeople, no matter what their specialty is, it’s likely they don’t move every muscle of their body in all directions to discover their full range of motion. Not to mention some athletes think they don’t need flexibility because their professionally required motion range is somewhat limited.
Yoga for athletes provides:
- More energy for workouts.
- Better results.
- Easier recovery (11).
- Great range of motion.
- Proper posture.
- Motivation increases (6).
- Improved mental health.
- Lower risk of athlete burnout due to mindfulness (9).
The benefits of yoga for athletes are countless and include physical and mental perks. Both are essential for a successful career as an athlete, not to mention your overall health.
Can Yoga Make Me Stronger?
Aside from recovery yoga for athletes, there are types that can actually make you stronger.
First of all, it will strengthen you symmetrically. We’ve all seen people with amazing pecs, biceps, and abs, little to no volume in their legs, and constant back pains. That’s because of a workout asymmetry that focuses mostly on the anterior chain (the frontside muscles).
Yoga poses engage all the muscles and make them move in all directions, mobilizing whole groups (like your back or core), strengthening them, and relieving tightness and pain. By activating the posterior chain (the backside muscles) and your core (including the deeper stabilizing muscles), you’ll feel stronger and more stable than ever.
Besides this, by boosting mobility, yoga will make you strong indirectly by enabling your body to jump higher, lunge deeper, and reach farther.
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How Do I Know I Need Yoga?
You Lack Mobility, Balance, And Flexibility
A study showed an improvement in the balance and flexibility of a group of 14 athletes that did yoga 2 times a week, compared to a group of 12 who didn’t (7).
You Have A Bad Posture
While you’re focusing on the key muscles needed for your sport, your back and core may not be the strongest. Working on them using yoga for athletes will help you relax your shoulders and stop sticking your pelvis out or chin forward.
You Lack Precision
If your sport requires precision, definitely try yoga for mindfulness. A study showed an increase in shooting precision by people who practiced mindfulness on a regular basis (4).
You Suffer From Fatigue And Muscle Soreness
A 2020 study showed an improvement in soreness and fatigue relief in 31 soccer players after only 10 weeks of practicing yoga (10).
Do Most Athletes Do Yoga?
There are many famous athletes and even whole teams that have become yoga advocates due to its benefits (1):
- LeBron James
- Aaron Rodgers
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Seattle Seahawks, and more
Yoga is great for balancing out regular athlete workouts. Muscle training makes them tight. The muscles that aren’t used a lot get weaker. As a result, the stronger ones shorten, making others overcompensate for them, which may have negative consequences like improper posture and constant pains. Also, a limited range of motion makes you prone to injuries, which should be minimized if you’re an athlete.
Another problem yoga can help you solve is recovery speed. During every workout, your muscle tissues are damaged a little. Yoga will increase blood flow to those tissues, along with nutrients and oxygen, to boost the healing process.
And finally, physical activity is a stress for your body. Relaxing and syncing it with your mind is what post-workout yoga can achieve.
So, if you want to stay aware of your body and train all your muscles without making them tight and short, welcome to yoga for athletes.
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What Type Of Yoga Is Best For Athletes?
Here are several yoga types most suitable for athletes:
Performing yoga in a hot and humid environment can become a better alternative to the heat stress technique. According to a study involving female hockey players, it can enhance plasma volume and overall cardiovascular performance (5).
Yin yoga aims at tension relief and motion range improvement. If you feel constant tightness in your muscles and have a lot of stress in your body and mind, try this type.
A perfect type for post-workout stretch and meditation. It works on maximum relaxation and stress and/or pain relief.
Slower moves, deeper stretches, and more difficult poses are all featured in hatha yoga.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to one type. Find time for different poses to achieve different goals.
What Are The Best Yoga Poses For Athletes?
Here are the 7 universal yoga poses for athletes:
#1: Downward Dog
- Stand on all fours and put your hands a little farther in front of you.
- Lift your hips and back up, standing on your toes/feet and palms.
- Stretch your back nicely and shift the weight to your hands.
- Feel it in the back of your legs, calves, side body, back, and shoulders.
#2: Supine Twist
- Lie on your back, bend your knees.
- Put your arms to the sides to form a T.
- Move your knees to the left as far as it’s comfortable, take a couple of deep breaths, sinking into the stretch.
- Repeat on the other side.
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- Lie on your belly and put your palms right near your shoulders, elbows in line with your body.
- Raise your head, chest, and shoulders slowly.
- Continue until your arms are straight, hips tightly on the floor.
- Lower to the initial position and repeat.
- Start in the table pose.
- Lift your tailbone up, open your chest, and let the torso sink as low as possible (cow pose).
- Round your spine and tuck the tailbone, transitioning into the cat pose.
- Alternate between the two, enjoying a pleasant stretch.
- Stand on your knees and rotate the thighs inward, tucking your tailbone a bit.
- Slowly put your hands on your heels and hug them.
- Open your chest and lift it, enjoying a front body stretch.
- Carefully move your hands to your thighs and release the pose.
- Start in the table position.
- Bring your right knee to the wrist so that your ankle is situated in front of the left hip.
- Slide the other leg back, heel up.
- Slowly lower your upper body to the bended leg and hold for a couple of deep breaths
- Release and repeat on the other side
- Lie on your belly and put your hands at your sides, palms up.
- Bend your knees and bring the feet closer to the buttocks.
- When you can, grab your ankles and lift the heels up, creating a bow-like figure.
- Deepen the stretch by drawing your tailbone in.
If you want a more professional approach than trying different poses to see what they do, visit a yoga coach and tell them about the goals you want to achieve with yoga. A pro will choose a complex that will cater to your needs.
Also, consider adding pranayama practices later to improve lung capacity and perform even better (12).
How Long Should Athletes Do Yoga For?
A short daily session is better than a 60-minute one 1-2 times a week, especially for yoga beginners. There are no time-of-day limits, but logically, the more active complexes are best for morning or day, while yoga for relaxation is perfect for any time.
At first, 10-20 minute sets are great for the introduction of this new practice into your life.
And if we’re talking about how long athletes have to do yoga to see results, give it 10 weeks. But I recommend you stop thinking about the end result and focus on consistency and comfort. Don’t force yourself to do yoga every day in the morning and evening just to see results. Do you feel comfy doing it once 1-2 days? Perfect. 3 times a week? Not a problem.
Make it enjoyable, and you’ll see results shortly.
Based on scientific evidence and the experience of many famous athletes, the only thing there’s to say is that yoga is essential. It boosts body awareness and mindfulness, helps with stress and muscle soreness relief, improves focus and body stability, and connects your mind to the muscles.
You don’t have to start with tying your legs around your neck. Start with a downward dog and other basic yoga poses, do some yoga leg stretches, work on your back, and focus on breathing. Be consistent, and in 2 months you’ll already see results.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 10 pro athletes and teams that practice yoga (2022, sportsnaut.com)
- Aaron Rodgers counting on health routine to keep him on top for years (2014, archive.jsonline.com)
- A regular yoga intervention for staff nurse sleep quality and work stress (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Mindfulness Practice on Performance – Relevant Parameters and Performance Outcomes in Sports: A Meta-Analytical Review (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Efficacy of Hot Yoga as a Heat Stress Technique for Enhancing Plasma Volume and Cardiovascular Performance in Elite Female Field Hockey Players (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Examining the Acute Effects of Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation on Executive Function and Mood (2016, link.springer.com)
- Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- LeBron’s extra edge: Cavaliers star’s devotion to yoga training helps keep James healthy (2009, cleveland.com)
- Mindfulness and Athlete Burnout: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mitigating the Antecedents of Sports-related Injury through Yoga (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The effects of yoga training and a single bout of yoga on delayed onset muscle soreness in the lower extremity (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What Is Pranayama? (2021, webmd.com)