The physical and mental practices of yoga can help them prevent injuries, improve their performance, and bring a whole new dimension of awareness and joy to the sports you love.
Running, cycling, and swimming use rhythmic, repetitive motion over long distances - they can be deeply meditative. But the downside of this action from a physical point of view is that the continuous cycles of repetitive motion tax one set of muscles while underutilizing the rest.
Over time and distance, this creates muscular imbalances that can lead to misalignment and injury.
Lunges are a way for runners to release the hip flexors in their back legs while stretching and strengthening the hamstrings of their front legs. And because the shape of a lunge mimics the runner's stride, it is a good way for runners to examine their alignment and balance.
Cyclist develop similar kinds of imbalances. Because they are constantly in a crouched position on the bike, their quads and gluteus muscles tend to be strong, but their hip flexors are tight and weak. Yoga opens the hips up and strengthens the surrounding muscles, which can prevent injury.
In Cycling- the body becomes contracted, with the shoulders and the back rounding forward.
Most of us already have a somewhat forward-leaning posture, simply from daily-life activities like sitting at a desk. Assuming a similar position while running or cycling exacerbates the contraction and can lead to back pain and postural issues.
Poses like Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) that open the front body, including the hip flexors.
Yoga offers athletes another tool for preventing injuries: Increased body awareness – you feel your body.
When Athletes hold poses for 10-20 breaths – they develop body awareness. By doing this, they learn how the body feels when uninjured and are more aware of warning signs ( pain, twinges that can signal injury.
As you stand in a lunge – scan your body, and release muscles in this post that feel tense. You will then be able to repeat this on the court, track or bike. As you ride/run – do a continuous self-check. Just as you learn to watch the road ahead mirrors, speedometer – you can run an internal monitoring on how your body ‘feels’. Use this interconnectivity as a tool.
By practicing mindfulness on your mat, athletes can learn to be present with many sensation as they work through periods of frustration, discomfort, boredom, anxiety, resistance – while training and competing. It’s all about finding calm in the midst of dynamic stress.
Yoga gives you the ability to work through these emotions on a regular basis.
Breathe: Shallow breathing stimulates the Sympathetic Nervous System – which makes you anxious and zaps energy.
Finding a steady even breath during asana, will help you find the same breath during endurance and competition.
Ujjayi Pranayama while training triggers the Parasympathetic Nervous System, establishing calm, and brings the mind into a steady Alpha state. When you run with your iPod – you are distracted – and yet there is so much inside to pay attention to.
Focus on breath and you will never be bored.
Regular Ujjayi breath can enhance your athletic performance by allowing you to exert yourself more efficiently. Exhaling with Ujjayi creates a meditative calm during activity. That is what yoga is about – learning how to be still and dynamic at the same time.
By Rhonda from THRIVE YOGA