Yoga cross-training for athletes

Yoga is a powerful practice which unites the mind, body and spirit. In the physical sense, it can really take you to another level. More and more athletes are starting to add yoga to their training regimen. Many are unaware of the profound mobility, balance and body control that yoga instills.

Mobility. Yoga postures are designed to open the body up. By moving into a specific position or asana, it creates space in the joints. The position is held as you breathe deeply and calm your nervous system. This allows the body to slowly neurologically and structurally adjust to being in that position; which ultimately conditions your joints to be stronger, more mobile and less susceptible to injury. It is extremely important to have strong, mobile joints in any sport. Yoga, when practiced cautiously & intuitively, can even aid in healing certain injuries or restrictions in the body.

Balance. Many asanas in yoga are designed to test the limits of your balance. They force you to properly align your body, hold the positions using the proper muscles & focus. It is almost a kind of forced meditation. You must silent your mind and focus your gaze in order to balance when you are first moving thru these postures. This can make a world of a difference in any sport. Take MMA for example; a fighter throws a kick and his leg is caught by his opponent, but since he has been practicing yoga he is mobile and balanced enough to remain standing on one leg without falling.

Control. Yoga will boost your proprioceptive senses like no other. What is proprioception? It is the sense of where you and your limbs are in space. So, if you close your eyes & I move your arm up and down, due to proprioception you will be able to tell whether your arm is raised or lowered. Many asanas in yoga, which test your balance and mobility, will instill sharp proprioceptive awareness. They force you to deeply focus on your feet and your fingers. Not only will this improve dexterity, but you are exercising your nervous system in a unique way. You are sending energy all the way to the very ends of your extremities which will directly enhance your proprioception and thus your body control. Proprioception is extremely important in all sports. Having the awareness and control of every muscle in your body is something all athletes should strive for.

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