What is the one thing you can add to your athletic training program that will take you to that next level? Yoga.
Some of the world’s top athletes have embraced and even claim yoga made their careers achieve new heights. Le-Bron James, NBA superstar claims that “yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind and it’s a technique that has really helped me.” Other athletes like Serena Williams and NFL superstar Tom Brady also add yoga to their training programs. Many professional sport teams are making yoga a part of their training. If these athletes and teams do yoga, shouldn’t you?
Here are 5 ways yoga can help you achieve that performance edge:
1. Achieve your full range of motion
Training for your sport involves a lot of the same repetitive movements. You can spend hours cycling, running, lifting weights, or swinging a golf club. Whatever sport or activity it is, you do it a lot. The body gets accustomed to its training range and your performance can stagnate. As range of motion gradually diminishes, the body can become susceptible to injury. Yoga can provide a key to solving range of motion problems. How? Well, many poses are about creating or extending your range of motion. Can’t I just stretch and achieve the same result? Yes, you can get results from stretching. Yoga, however, is more than stretching, it takes the conscious mind and links it with the physical body. Once you create this link, the body responds and it changes, lengthening your physical body. It doesn’t stop there because it also switches on the parts of the brain you need to be able to perform at your best.
2. Strengthen and lengthen at the same time
A lot of sports take strength training very seriously. Look at Valerie Adams or Sonny Bill Williams and how they are the best in the world. They participate in demanding sports that require huge amounts of muscle. In other sports, bulky muscle can be a hindrance; tennis players or golfers aren’t necessarily looking to power lift 100kg. Here is where yoga bridges the gap for all athletes. Whether you require massive muscle or short twitch lean muscle, yoga will strengthen your body. Not only that, the true strength you desire to achieve will be cultivated through muscle engagement throughout your postures. Yoga isn’t about range of motion, the physical practice is about learning to engage every part of your body while you are stretching and lengthening it. Yoga activates the muscles that are required to make the body stable and strong, yet fluid and reactive. You have to do both to create a body that will be ready to take your performance to that next level.
3. Learn to consciously breathe
So much of our training is about building our cardiovascular output. Some requires more Aerobic output and others anaerobic. Conscious breath is vital to yoga and developing this aspect of your training will help you achieve success. Our parasympathetic system controls our breathing and many times, when we are striving for that personal best or scoring that last point, our last thought is on our breathing. This is where conscious breath can give you that edge over others.
One breathing technique to try is called Ujjayi breathing. This technique is where you slowly inhale through your nose and exhale out the nose, even when you are really challenged. This has immediate applicability to your sport because conscious breath is the first thing we lose when we are competing or challenged. By learning to breath in this way, you create the mental and physical pathways to be able to slow heart and breathing rate. As you slow it down, this makes every breath more efficient, filling the lungs with vital oxygen, and then making sure it is absorbed to its maximum. Your physical stress will subside, your mind will clear, and you’ll be able to focus on your goal. Clear breath will result in a clear mind.
4. Mindfulness for your performance
Once we know how to breathe better, we can access the deeper recesses of our brain to unlock our performance. Mental clarity and strength is what will separate good athletes from champions. When you’re tired, sore, or feel like quitting, it’s the focus and the ability to see your end goal that will take you to victory. Yoga’s true power comes from bringing everything we do into a state of mindfulness and presence that allows us to feel and hear everything the body says. Positive reinforcement and attitude and belief in yourself will carry the day; yoga gives you these affirmations every time you practice. Live in the present, be your best person, achieve your success, and the rest will follow.
5. Unlock your true potential
Once mind/body/breath are working together, you move from being just a great athlete to being a great person. This is the greatest benefit of yoga. You may achieve amazing things in your sport, a personal best, or reach that elusive goal; but, you will also unlock your true humanity, energy, and link this greater purpose, with everyone around you. Your perspective changes and life becomes this amazing journey, where you can celebrate your successes, but you remain in balance with your life.
Yoga is a way to set yourself apart from your competitors, by strengthening your body and expanding your range of motion. Yoga, however, isn’t just interested in physical change, it will give you mental clarity and conscious control over many parts of your body. Yoga won’t replace good coaching, eating plans, or sport-specific training. What it will do is give you the edge to unleash your true potential. Championships or personal bests are amazing to achieve, but yoga will do more, it will foster believe in your true self and achievement in your higher purpose.