Yoga has been popular with women, both athletes and nonathletes alike, for quite some time. However, more and more male athletes are turning to yoga to increase power, control, and muscle function. In fact, several pro athletes and teams, including Shaquille O’Neal, Lebron James, the New York Giants, and the Seattle Seahawks have been known to incorporate yoga into their routines.
Benefits of Yoga
Repetitive movements, a necessary part of many sports, can lead to tight muscles. If your muscles are too tight when you are playing, you could be at risk of a tear. Yoga is a great way to increase flexibility, which can help to protect your muscles and joints by increasing the range of motion. While you may think that simply stretching before and after athletic activities is enough, yoga goes beyond simple stretching moves, working the muscles through the full range of motion and activating the lesser-used supporting muscles in the body. By increasing your flexibility, you can increase your power by making your movements more efficient.
Yoga can also help to improve your balance by strengthening the core. It is important for athletes and nonathletes alike to have a strong core, especially as we age. The core muscles help to support the spine, helping you to keep correct posture, which can in turn reduce your risk of back problems. Lebron James has even credited yoga with helping him to reduce lower back discomfort in the past.
Yoga can also help with recovery. By stretching and relaxing your muscles during yoga, you increase blood flow, which can help to speed healing of broken down muscle fibers. Many athletes also find that yoga helps with endurance and mental toughness. Breathing is a very important part of yoga and helps to promote the connection between the body and the mind. This type of breathing can help an athlete stay calm, focused, and relaxed.
How to Get Started
There are several different types of yoga that you can try. The key is choosing the yoga moves that fit your needs. Are you looking to build strength and endurance, or do you want to focus more on relaxation? Ashtanga and Power yoga offer more dynamic, fluid movements, while Hatha and Yin yoga focus more on restoration and relaxation. Bikram yoga, often called “hot yoga,” is also popular. This style of yoga is performed in a 105-degree room, which adds some intensity to the movements. Some even feel that the heat helps to relax their muscles during the session.
You can purchase DVDs to practice yoga at home, but you may consider joining a class or working with a private instructor. An experienced instructor can work with you to tailor a routine to your needs, helping you get the most out of the experience. Also, as yoga becomes more popular with athletes, you may find yoga classes in your area that are specifically targeted to athletes.
Although yoga was once much more popular with women, as male athletes are discovering its benefits, more and more men are joining in. Give it a try; it just might improve your game overall.