Why do so many athletes worldwide practise yoga?
1. Holistic fitness
All-round or holistic fitness means a combination of speed, agility, flexibilty, strength, stamina, endurance & power.
Yoga helps you to obtain holistic fitness. There's a common misconception that yoga is all about stretching, and maybe you've been to a class where that has been the case - but let me tell you, that is not the case with Iyengar Yoga.
There are a multitude of poses which are held for varying length of time. Poses which work your core, strengthen your hips, back, arms, etc.
2. Decreased risk of injury
Of the hundreds of muscles in your body, there will be muscles which are underused and ones which are overused. This imbalance can cause problems - particularly when you train regularly.
Underused muscles become stiff...someone with tight, stiff hamstrings is likely to overstretch the hardened hamstring when sprinting, which can result in a painful, slow to heal, tear.
People with tight muscles in their back are plagued with aches and pains. This can be particularly problematic when playing racket sports or golf.
By contrast, overused muscles overdevelop. Regular yoga practise teaches us to use our voluntary muscles effectively.
Balanced flexibility results in easy movement and decreases likelihood of injury.
Consider a boxer, his dominant shoulder constantly turned inward and neck twisted. Day after day this creates an imbalance in the body, tightening certain areas of the body. Now, a boxer that practises yoga regularly has the awareness to open that shoulder out when they're not boxing. To maintain good alignment at other times, and to use yoga to reduce tightness in overused muscles.
A flexible body moves with greater ease than a stiff one.
You can take longer strides and cover distance faster with improved mobility.
Agility is changing position suddenly, eg a goalie going for the dive, a midfielder doing a feint, a cricketer fielding. To be agile you require good coordination and an attentive mind. Yoga unifies the mind and body. It is mindful movement. Concentration and awareness improve with regular yoga practise, these are valuable assets in many sports.
Balance and stability are crucial in sports such as badminton. As you move into and out of poses, as you move from one pose to the next, yoga teaches you balance and stability.
Yoga teaches us to deveop and use our physical strength in an intelligent way - not just mindlessly using brute force. Yoga poses develop all-over body strength in both major and minor muscles, so the minors can assist the majors.
In sport, stamina is required for each match, but also for the season. You really have to try an Iyengar yoga class to see for yourself how your stamina will improve ;-)
Endurance is stamina in both body and mind. Yoga teaches patience, tenacity and endurance.
9. Calm, relaxed mind
Restorative yoga poses followed by specific breathing techniques can help us sleep better, and as you know, that's when the body heals. After a game, the mind can be on high alert for a long time afterwards.Yoga is used to bring about a more neutral mind, soothing the nerves and enabling recovery.
To master a sport, athletes must be disciplined. This mental strength comes from within. Yoga teaches discipline.