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Yoga and the Professional Athlete

Professional athletes are now appreciating how yoga can help improve sporting performance. Regular yoga practice can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Avoidance and treatment of injuries

  • Breath awareness and control

  • Mental focus

  • Stamina

  • Flexibility

  • Agility

  • Extending careers

  • Creating positive training habits

“In terms of injury prevention, yoga helps slow down the creeping stiffness of age - and protects your joints. If you are tight through the muscles around the hips – hamstrings, groin, glutes, quads, and hip flexors – then you usually develop a pattern of excess movement and compression in the lower spine, which results in back problems. With football players this is hugely exacerbated by the running and sprinting they do. So, again, yoga can help free the hips and reduce back issues.”

Football can be identified with many male and female players being one leg dominant. So one leg does all the kicking while the other performs planting. Because of this, the hip flexor and quads are frequently engaged with the kicking leg, but not with the planting leg. This imbalance can cause issues with both the hip and spine.

Yoga helps re-set muscle length so players stay mobile and supple; it keeps them moving efficiently; and it keeps their bodies aligned and therefore in a better position for their natural talent to shine through. A player can become a better ‘athlete’, when a combination of strength, power and flexibility come together. They will move more efficiently and will be able to go on doing the sport they love for longer.

English FA, Manchester United, Manchester City, Southampton FC, Burnley FC, Heart of Midlothian are just some of the many football organizations who have yoga as part of their weekly training schedule.

Iyengar yoga conditions the human system in its entirety, promoting health in mind and body. Yoga can be a demanding test of physical endurance when faced with holding challenging or balancing postures (asanas) for long periods of time.

Because of this, yoga is practiced by many professional athletes and entire teams for the purpose of improving flexibility, endurance, core strength and balance. It also provides many benefits such as breathing techniques that can be used to aid relaxation, focus, mental and spiritual clarity.

Yoga has helped many athletes remain in top physical and mental condition.

Ryan Giggs, Ex Professional Footballer – Manchester United

The former Wales international is the most decorated player in the sport’s history, winning 13 Premier League titles with Manchester United, numerous FA Cups, two Champions League titles and much more. He’s captained Manchester United and the Great Britain Olympic football team in 2012, and retired at the impressive age of 40. The secret to his longevity? A combination of things including: not driving sports cars because of the impact on his hamstrings, retiring from international football and improving his diet. One of the defining moves he made however was to take up yoga:

“You can feel it working and you can feel the benefits straight away… “My body feels so much better,”

LeBron James, Professional Basketball Player, Cleveland Cavaliers

James explains that yoga not only helps him with his balance, but that it has helped ease some lower back issues.

“It is something that really can help your balance. I had some lower back problems a few years ago and once I started to do the yoga, it has helped them go away for now. Of course we can stretch but stretching only goes so far.”

Tom Brady, Professional American Football Player, New England Patriots

Tom Brady’s health regimen would not be complete without a healthy dose of ancient Eastern wisdom. He is a hardcore lover of yoga, which he gives credit for miraculous mental and physical benefits.

“Its great for flexibility, its therapeutic, and great for your attitude.”

New Zealand All Blacks, Rugby Team

"Rugby" and "yoga" are two words that rarely appear in the same sentence. Giant men slamming into each other and leaving the playing field covered in mud are usually not the same men doing "child's pose." The New Zealand All Blacks team is a prime example of how far the practice of yoga is spreading. Recently, after the Blacks had failed to perform in big moments, the club hired yoga instructor Lyndsey Benn to work with the players.

"They all really loved the relaxing aspect of the yoga. Anything that grounded them and could get them laid down, relaxed and doing visualizations of the game ahead."

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