Workout Tips

5 Ways Yoga Can Boost Athletic Performance

It ain’t just about striking a pose. Yoga can help boost power, keep you injury-free and help you build more muscle in the long run.

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Ahh, yoga. Crunchy, serene, woo-woo yoga. But we’ve got news for you: It’s not just for hippies or girls in yoga pants anymore – just ask the Seattle Seahawks. If you think yoga is a waste of your precious lifting time, think again. Developing a steady practice can actually help you get stronger.

The dirty truth of the matter is that putting your body through any repetitive movement (even weightlifting) will eventually create muscular imbalances and lead to injury. So hard-chargers take note: Incorporating yoga into your existing routine might be exactly what your body needs in order to improve.

Here are five ways yoga can benefit even the most muscular among us.


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1. Increased Power

Flexibility keeps muscles and joints safe. Chances are, if you’ve just been using the same muscles for repetitive movements, they’re going to be pretty tight. Top-flight bodybuilders and dedicated weekend warriors alike love a good massage for this reason. Maybe you’ve even noticed a one rep max plateau, or a speed block. If a muscle is so tight that injury is imminent, your body will start to recruit other muscles to help out with certain moves. And if those muscles are undertrained, you’re looking at a torn muscle and -gasp- down time. Elastic muscles and supple joints move more efficiently, recover more quickly and continue doing their jobs. Increasing your flexibility will also increase range of motion, which means an increased power output due to greater muscle recruitment, and more efficient movements.

2. Better Muscle Function

Yoga is a lot of things but it is basically all about breath and movement, movement and breath. To fully be present and to full articulate each posture in yoga, a strong, focused breath is essential. Doesn’t hurt that it tames busy brain or helps take the edge off your pre-workout drink. Getting in touch with your breath can help establish better breathing patterns and access parts of your respiratory system that you didn’t even know you could control. Get ready for more efficient oxygen intake, more complete exhalation, and better muscle function. Hello, gains. Goodbye muscle fatigue, symptoms of asthma, ragged breathing, and side stitches. Just like you wouldn’t restrict precious nutrients and protein from your muscles, you should also be feeding your muscles with more delicious blood flow and oxygen. This is also certain to develop positive respiratory habits that you can carry into the rest of your training endeavors.

3. Mental Toughness

One of the biggest benefits of yoga is its emphasis on the connection between body and mind. Whether through meditation, or through the holding a headstand for an extended period of time, your mental toughness and focus are likely to improve. This might be the hardest benefit to achieve but once you begin to get your head in the game the benefits are almost unlimited.

4. Control   

“Pull your belly button to your spine,” “feel your lungs expanding,” “roll down your spine, one vertebrae at a time,” are all common phrases in yoga classes. It’s this constant cueing to pay attention to the smallest of sensations that helps build the neurological connections between our brains and our muscles (See No. 3). Yoga builds body awareness, and this can help you analyze your form during your workout to both optimize your lifting techniques, and help prevent compensation based injury. Again, this carries over into your normal cadre of sets-and-reps: the better you are able to “connect” mind and muscle, the more focused (read: efficient) each rep will be. Tough to think about the burn when you’re laser-focused on the effort.

5. Active Recovery and Muscle Repair

Active recovery typically means a light workout on an off day. These low-key days are a perfect way to slide yoga seamlessly into your schedule. Using specifically yoga as a form of active recovery can actually repair muscle fibers more quickly than other common forms, as the combination of stretching and relaxing muscles encourages blood flow to broken down muscle tissues. Do yoga, lift again sooner.

If you think yoga is just for slim, prissy girls with hot yoga pants on, think again. A great many of you out there likely have at least some familiarity with yoga through your TV-ordered set of P90X DVDs. Through yoga, you learn to control your body and your mind. And when it comes to building a stronger, leaner, more functional physique, that control can truly provide next-level results.

 

Brooke Roberts is the Founder and CEO of YogaTravelTree.com, a Yelp/Tripadvisor style resource for the yoga community, connecting yogis with retreats, trainings, events, and studios at home and around the world. After rising to the top of the youth travel industry as the Senior Vice President of GoAbroad.com, she left it all behind to launch her own start-up. She began seriously practicing yoga five years ago on board a ship traveling from Brazil to Namibia and it’s been a part of her fitness regime ever since. You can find her on Twitter @thenewdorothy.

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