Yoga And Sports: Why Yoga Is Perfect For Athletes
By now, there is little doubt that yoga works. Its benefits are seemingly innumerable, and many are thoroughly backed by science. Some of these benefits include decreasing stress, alleviating anxiety, reducing inflammation, improving heart health, reducing chronic pain, and even promoting good sleep.
But there’s more! Yoga also improves strength and flexibility. It enhances endurance, stability, and balance. It even strengthens the core, which is vital for performing all sorts of movements. This particular set of benefits, in case you haven’t figured it out just yet, is crucial for a specific group of people: athletes. Bear in mind that these people constantly engage in all sorts of training to improve strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and stability — the same attributes yoga can enhance.
Small wonder why more and more athletes everywhere are incorporating yoga into their routines. Basketball players like LeBron James and Blake Griffin come to mind as some who have spoken about the benefits of this particular kind of workout. James, in particular, is quite public about his affinity for yoga, routinely crediting it as one of the reasons for his longevity and durability, which are virtually unmatched in the NBA's history.
Soccer stars like Hope Solo and Ryan Giggs also practice yoga. The former has credited yoga for the speed and agility she's maintained throughout her decorated career as one of the best goalkeepers in history. Giggs, meanwhile, attributes his remarkable longevity to doing yoga, where he routinely mixes navasanas and chaturangas. Giggs, ironically, “stumbled” into yoga after getting injured in 2001. “Yoga was first about injury prevention,” admitted Giggs, “but later it became about recovery.”
Giggs is touching on another reason that yoga is perfect for athletes, which is that it can indeed hasten recovery on a regular basis. Athletes' bodies are subject to incredible physical demands both during training periods and in games or matches. Because of this, athletes are also vulnerable to injury, which is why they need to prioritize finding ways to recuperate efficiently. Yoga, ultimately, is one of the most effective practices many of them wind up trying.
This is why it makes sense that even rugby players (to say rugby is <em>physical</em> is an understatement) have turned to yoga. The All Blacks of New Zealand, one of the world’s best rugby teams and in fact one of the most historically dominant teams in all of sports, have actually made yoga part of their training routine. One of the team’s key players, Beauden Barrett, says that he first tried yoga for its recuperative properties; now, this age-old practice is the All Blacks’ new-age secret for apex fitness and recovery.
It is no coincidence that the current All Blacks are number one in the world, and leading the way in betting odds on sites offering tips and previews for the 2019 Rugby World Cup,which will be held in Japan from September 20 to November 2. They are the defending champions as well, and while it would be inane to attribute the All Blacks’ dominance solely to their practice of yoga, it appears to have helped the players in myriad ways.
There's an important caveat here, though: For all the benefits of yoga, it's still up to the athletes as individuals to work on their craft and improve their game. Sure, yoga can help, and it will help a great deal. But ultimately, the other things — sports-specific training, healthy eating, and preparation — matter, too.