The world of sports is very demanding for athletes at all levels, whether a beginner or a seasoned veteran. Individual sports place great stress on the body; often we put emphasis on particular muscle groups while neglecting others.  Yoga gives the body a break and a chance to support the neglected areas, while stretching and relaxing the over worked ones.  Yoga is about the whole!  Here are just a few benefits that yoga provides to help you perform better in your chosen sport!

Spatial Awareness & Balance


Where is your body in space?  How do you fit, in relation to those around you?
When it comes to sports spatial awareness is extremely important.  Fine tuning this intuition can mean the difference of a perfect move or injury.  While performing there is no chance to look every way possible to make sure you have the clearance, instead one look before starting sets the environment for the routine; therefore knowing where your body is in relation to the environment is key! 
Yoga creates internal awareness to fine tune the intuition it takes to execute a specific routine in the space available.  This internal awareness adds to the sense of balance.  You are much less likely to fall if you know your body well and can make necessary body adjustments to execute the move.  Yoga literally means “to unite, to join” this can be illustrated in many ways: join body & mind, breath & movement, body & space…when we learn to combine all of these things we become balanced.

Flexibility


Those that are double jointed are at an advantage when it comes to flexibility…or are they?  Often people that are extremely flexible through the joints are lacking in strength of the minute muscles that support said joints.  This lack of muscle tone can lead to injury through hyper-extension   Specific yoga poses can strengthen the small, supportive muscles helping to prevent injury while maintaining flexibility. 

For those needing to increase flexibility, yoga allows for a gentle progression to open tight joints and lengthen short muscles.  Often with sports stretching exercises sometimes we overlook key elements.  The area we perceive to be tight is not, the ability to touch your toes lies not just in the hamstrings but also in the lower back and hip joints.  A weak or tight lower back may be preventing a full hamstring stretch.  Yoga looks at all aspects of a stretch and allows for every possibility.

Strength


Strength of muscle and of mind are key to preforming well, yoga lends us this strength by connecting breath to movement.  All asanas (poses) create strength in a particular muscle group or groups.  The movement into, out of and holding all build and maintain muscle mass while promoting flexibility.  By holding a pose you are both stretching and building muscle, by moving into and out of the pose you are building body and mind awareness.

Which pose or set of poses is best?


Science, research and experience help us determine which poses to use and when.  Firstly it needs to be determined what is the goal of the yogic practice?  Do you need to open the hips? Strengthen the legs?  Build core strength?  A combination of these and more?  Once these questions have been answered the poses can be determined. 

Take the Warrior series for instance, Warrior I, II, & III all build lower body strength and spatial awareness; as well as: 
·        Warrior I opens the front of the hip, stretches front and back of thighs, lengthens the spine. 
·        Warrior II opens the side hips, builds core strength, stretches the inner thighs.
·        Warrior III promotes balance, spatial awareness, builds core strength
More variations of the Warrior can be used to stretch the upper body while maintaining balance and strength in the lower body.

It is not a question of “if” yoga can help it is a question of “which” asanas are best for you and your sport of choice!  





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