Written by Stacey Schaedler
Want to improve performance AND up your game? It’s time for you to try YOGA.
There are so many benefits to yoga…here are my top 3:
- Recovery + Injury Prevention
- Mobility, Flexibility + Stability
- Mind Body Connection to Breath
1. RECOVERY + INJURY PREVENTION
An athlete’s job is to train, eat, sleep and repeat. Performing at such high intensities can leave you out of balance. Getting underneath 400+ lbs of steel and squatting for reps is an impressive feat! It will also leave you with some tight adductors, glutes, hips and core.
Yoga is different from other methods of recovery because it requires your active involvement. It falls under the blanket of “steady state cardio” because of its duration and intensity, while at the same time allowing for the development of kinesthetic awareness. Unlike massage, ART or hydrotherapy, moving through your full range of motion, barefoot, in a room without mirrors, is sure to enhance your body awareness.
Repeat after me: “EVERYTHING YOU DO, YOU MUST UNDO.”
Yoga is a tool used by the self to identify deficiencies. The more you are aware of your asymmetries from left to right within your body, the more aware you will be underneath the bar. Next time you go to squat you’ll be spreading your feet beneath you, using your breath to back your lifts and hitting PR’s you never thought possible!
Oh and there are FEW things that feels better the day after an intense training session than active recovery with YOGA. It just feels so DAMN good.
2. MOBILITY + FLEXIBILITY + STABILITY
Mobility and flexibility are often lumped together but in reality are two very different things. And then stability comes in and really complicates things.
Mobility pertains to the motion we are able to CONTROL around a joint.
Flexibility is the movement that is POSSIBLE around a joint.
Stability is established with both active and passive influences.
As an athlete you need something to balance out your strength and explosive power. Yoga does just that.
It boosts flexibility while challenging stability at the same time. Take your hamstrings for example. They may feel tight, simply because your body is attempting to create stability where it’s missing. Doing just a static stretch will not engage the core and will actually cause more instability and possibly injure you.
A warrior III with a slightly bent knee and square hips will lengthen the hamstrings while training the musculature around the hips and torso to keep you stable.
Mobility of your joints should be seen as general maintenance for your body. Keep the body oiled before the squeaky wheel makes its first appearance. For anyone with a prior history of shoulder, hip, or ankle injury, mobility is of the utmost importance. All great strength coaches incorporate a mobility and stability section in their athletes programs. I would be willing to bet that it’s the first thing to get dropped when you are short on time. Adding just ONE yoga class a week or ANY of these simple yoga flows will increase your hip, shoulder, ankle and thoracic mobility.
Yoga classes can range from 60 to 90 minutes in length. For some peoples schedules this can simply not be a priority. But 3-10 minutes can fit into anyone’s day. Whether you choose to practice the basics on your own or you muster up the courage to go to a yoga class YOU WILL BENEFIT from incorporating yoga into your weekly routine. Granted your first few classes will be challenging, but isn’t that what life is all about? Step outside your comfort zone!
3. MIND BODY CONNECTION to BREATH
Breathing is fundamental, but many of us do it all wrong. The purpose of yoga is breath control through movement. Athletes are kinesthetic learners; as such addressing breath control through the outside physical body( i.e. moving through yoga poses) gives the athlete TANGIBLE access to something that can balance them from the OUTSIDE, IN.
I see the enhancement of the mind body connection as a psychological tool and advantage for any athlete!
Get it out of your head that you need a yoga mat or props. You have access to your breath anywhere anytime!
Give these easy exercises a try.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and knocked together (at least one hand on your stomach), or seated upright in a chair or bench.
Inhale through your nose for three counts, hold at the top for two counts and exhale through your mouth for three counts. Repeat this for 8-10 rounds.
Gradually increase the count of the inhale and exhale as you see fit, eventually an eight count in-breath will feel like nothing!
This conscious attention to breath carries over to the weight room, the field and your LIFE. Controlling the breath calms the nerves and allows you to recover faster after intense effort. Do not expect this to be easy, it takes continuous cognizant effort, the results will come with practice. This is especially desirable for those set to compete under pressure.
Still think yoga is just for women and hippies? Think again. The biggest benefits that yoga offers athletes are recovery and injury prevention, mobility, flexibility and stability, as well as the mind- body connection to breath. There are so many common threads between yoga and your sport, whether it be power-lifting, running, strongman, football, basketball or just general strength training. As a trainer, I strongly emphasize mobility of ankles, hips, shoulders and upper back as well as stabilization of knees, hips, low back and shoulder girdle, all of which parallel the benefits received from a GOOD yoga class. Yoga offers a ton of isometric as well as eccentric quasi-isometric holds, which provides core strength benefits as well as a stretch for those who need it. Developing this balance between strength and flexibility will lessen the likelihood of injury. Connecting consciously to breath as well as bodyweight movement will result in a body awareness you never knew possible. Trust me give yoga a shot, it might just change your life.
Stacey Schaedler runs her own personal training business within the largest yoga studio in Boston. Stacey is an ACSM CPT, RKC as well as RYT through the National Yoga Alliance. Her focus is strength training with a strong emphasis on postural integrity and alignment. This, paired with solid nutritional education for her clients creates the foundation for their success. Not only do her clients learn to move properly, gain strength and eliminate pain, they learn to start listening to their bodies. As a result of her diverse fitness experience as a collegiate athlete, avid yogi and former professional figure competitor, Stacey is a wealth of knowledge for those looking to attain their ultimate fitness and nutrition goals.