This article was originally featured in HealthHub: The Brigham and Women’s Hospital Health Blog.
Elizabeth G. Matzkin, MD, is surgical director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, team physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School.
Shelby Cheever, BA
From Vinyasa and Iyengar to Bikram, there seems to be a yoga style for everyone. While anyone can benefit from practicing yoga, athletes or those who exercise regularly should consider incorporating yoga into their training plans. Here are some reasons why:
1. Core strength
A consistent yoga practice can enhance core strength and stability. Various poses target muscle groups that are often underutilized in other exercises, such as running, cycling, and swimming. By strengthening these neglected muscles, you provide more support to your major muscle groups. Improving the strength of both big and small muscles allows them to function at their optimal level and enhance your exercise performance.
Balance and coordination are essential for improving exercise performance and prevention of injuries. Flowing through yoga poses enhances balance and coordination, as well as concentration. By improving balance, you can reduce the risk of falls and improve technique when exercising, leading to better performance overall.
In addition to poses that challenge strength and balance, a complete yoga practice includes poses to increase flexibility. Joint and muscle flexibility play a key role in range of motion. A greater arc of motion allows more force to be exerted during exercise movements like a golf swing, swimming stroke, or baseball pitch.
4. Mental focus
Yoga acknowledges the importance of mental training alongside physical training. Even if meditation is not for you, yoga includes various other techniques that can help improve mental focus for sports or exercise. For example, many yoga poses are most successful when breathing matches movement. This can be beneficial for endurance athletes like runners, cyclists, or swimmers.
Yoga is a great addition to any exercise regimen and has many benefits for improving exercise performance. It is unique in that athletes of all ages or experience can start a regimen at their own pace—and reap the benefits. So, step out of your comfort zone and onto the mat today!
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