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Yoga offers all practitioners many benefits. It reduces mental stress, lowers blood pressure, improves posture, and relieves physical tension. That said, practicing yoga is especially beneficial to the athlete. Here are five truly compelling sports-related advantages to developing a regular yoga practice.
From rebalancing a sedentary lifestyle to reducing your stress, here are 16 answers to the question, "What are the best benefits you get from practicing yoga?"
Offsets the Sedentary Nature of Office Work
Imparts Clarity and Creativity
Reduces Inflammation and Increases Mobility
Calms Your Mind, Heart, and Body
Motivates You to Exercise More
Helps Make New Friends
Lowers Your Injury Risk
Encourages You to Move with Intention
Evaluates Your Abilities
Nurtures Relationships Better
Provides a Solution to Head Strain
Enhances Respiratory and Circulatory Health
Alleviates Back Pain
Improved flexibility is just one of the many benefits of practicing yoga. When you regularly engage in yoga poses and stretches, you are conditioning your muscles and joints to become more flexible and supple.
Over time, this can increase your range of motion and reduce the risk of injury, as your muscles and joints will be better able to adapt to different movements and positions. Flexibility can also improve physical function in everyday activities, such as reaching, bending, and twisting.
In addition to the physical benefits, improved flexibility can also lead to a greater sense of balance and stability, both physically and mentally, which can be especially helpful for those who experience anxiety or stress. Yoga can help to calm the mind and bring a sense of balance and clarity.
Overall, the practice of yoga can be an incredibly beneficial addition to anyone's physical and mental well-being.
Natalia Grajcar, Co-Founder, Natu.Care
Some sports rely heavily on the athlete to be flexible and/or have good balance, as does regular life. Research shows that regular yoga practice offers improvements in both.
In 2016, the International Journal of Yoga published a study involving 26 male college athletes (1). Fourteen of these athletes, all of whom played soccer, followed a yoga routine. This routine consisted of two sessions per week for 10 weeks. The non-yoga group—athletes who played baseball—served as a control. At the end of the 10 weeks, researchers noted that those practicing yoga had “significant gains” in both balance and flexibility. These gains were not present in the non-yoga group.
Research reveals that one in five active adults report having some type of sports-related injury within the last 12 months (3). Even a minor injury can cause pain and discomfort. If the injury is severe, professional athletes could risk losing their livelihood because they’re no longer able to perform.
Overuse injury is another concern for novice and elite athletes alike. Working the same muscle groups over and over again increases injury risk. Work them too hard and you can do some major damage.
A 2020 study notes that yoga helps prevent sports-related injuries (4). This piece of research involved 31 male soccer players who engaged in a 10-week yoga practice. The players also noticed improvements in generalized fatigue. This reduces injury as well.
Beginning a yoga practice is vastly beneficial to professionals who have sedentary work routines, especially folks who work a desk job and get limited movement throughout the day.
Yoga is a great way for office workers to incorporate more movement into their daily routines. Not only does it help to increase flexibility and strength, but it also helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
Practicing yoga can help you stay focused throughout the day and improve your posture, which can help reduce neck and back pain caused by sitting at a desk all day. Additionally, yoga can help to improve your breathing and circulation, which can help you stay energized throughout the day.
With regular practice, you can start to feel more relaxed and energized, allowing you to be more productive in your work.
Michael Alexis, CEO, swag.org
One area that yoga is especially good at helping to build is core strength(2). An example of this is Uddiyana Banda. This is also referred to as an “abdominal lock” and controls the flow of energy. It involves drawing the abdomen in and up while exhaling. This engages the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and internal and external obliques. Other core yoga poses include Boat Pose, Cat Pose, and Four-Limbed Staff Pose.
Yoga also helps improve strength in other areas of the body as well. Eagle Pose builds strength in the thighs, ankles, and calves. Downward-Facing Dog increases strength in the arms, shoulders, and back. The Humble Warrior Pose strengthens the muscle in all of these areas.
Athletes, weekend warriors, and even regular gym-goers of all ages and all levels tend to push their bodies to the limit at times. A strenuous workout is the norm. This means that their muscles need to be given a chance to recover so they’re ready for the next training session. Yoga aids in this recovery process.
Restorative yoga is good for this purpose. Its basis is “less work, more relaxation” and involves doing fewer poses, but spending more time in each one. This enables the body to recover via passive stretching. Yin yoga also utilizes passive stretching techniques.
I've been teaching yoga for years, and the health benefits are numerous, from reducing pain and improving sleep to increasing strength and flexibility.
The simple yet challenging act of slowing down and breathing deeply allows us to be present in the here and now. Time spent in proper yoga breathing centers us and brings a calmness that clears out our minds of all the clutter. Once the noise is gone, creativity can step in!
I encourage people to include yoga as a way to balance out all their activities as well as give a boost to their productivity.
Lorraine Bossé-Smith, Chief Solutions Officer, Concept One LLC
The one great benefit when you start practicing yoga is that you are slowly training your mind, heart, and body towards achieving calmness and tranquility, in addition to the various health benefits. Yoga places an emphasis on breathing techniques, and when you breathe in and out with purpose, you invite a sense of mental calmness into your body since these breathing techniques help you to let go of stress and tension from the body.
In today's world, we often live in hectic environments and the demands of life often create a lot of distractions that keep us from achieving inner peace and calmness. Yoga can be a stepping stone and a good head start to allow ourselves to relax and de-stress so that we can have the better mental clarity to tackle whatever challenges life throws at us.
Bhante Thi-O, Founder, Poh Ern Si Penang
The practice of yoga is great for taking time to slow down and move your body with intention. In a world where everything is always hectic and rushed, it's important to take time out to focus on our own bodies and self-care.
Yoga is all about breathwork and mindfulness. It encourages you to be present and let everything else around us go. With the constant demands on our attention, practicing yoga allows us to re-center on what's important.
Brianna Bitton, Co-Founder, O Positiv
If your client is an athlete, they must be aware of where their body is at all times. This is necessary to ensure proper body mechanics and form. It enables them to perform the same action repeatedly and get the same results. Adding a consistent yoga practice to their training regimen helps increase this body awareness.
Some of this improved awareness occurs via pranayama. This term refers to the breathing technique used in a yoga practice. Regulating your breathing slows your mind. This breath awareness leads to enhanced body awareness. It allows the athlete to better recognize when their posture or form is compromised.
Together, all of these benefits lead to better athletic performance. They allow the athlete to perform their sport of choice at their physical and mental best.
Yoga proves to be a helpful tool for improving sleep by reducing stress and anxiety, regulating the breath, relaxing the body, and providing a form of physical activity, all of which contribute to better sleep.
If you're experiencing sleeping disorders for many reasons, including insomnia, stress, and mental issues, yoga may be the solution to your problem. There are specific yoga poses and practices that are particularly helpful for sleep, such as legs up the wall, child's pose, and corpse pose.
As a part of your yoga routine, incorporate some relaxation techniques you can try before sleep, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. If you want to practice yoga before bed, choose more relaxing and static positions to avoid energizing the body and making it more difficult to fall asleep.
While yoga can be a valuable tool for improving sleep, it is not a replacement for other healthy sleep habits, such as a consistent sleep schedule or avoiding screens.
Nina Paczka, Community Manager, LiveCareer
A person who regularly does yoga develops a flexible body and mind by overcoming rigidity. Yoga emphasizes meditation, happiness, spirituality, and overall well-being in addition to being a physical activity. Yoga teaches people to be grateful for life and all of its blessings, including the people who provide joy to their lives.
Regular yoga practice is a terrific method to sharpen your focus and become calmer, gain more perception, and be more emotionally available. Through frequent practice and placing other people's needs above one's own, yoga will motivate a person to gradually eliminate toxins. These behaviors will inevitably come to be associated with developing and nurturing connections.
Shawn Mahaffey, Founder, Wing It
For those like myself who stare at a screen all day, we are all in need of some non-screen, quality relaxation time. Eye strain, neck strain, and head strain can all stem from interacting with a screen for long periods of time. Yoga, a non-technical, revitalizing exercise, provides many benefits, one of the most notable being increased blood flow to your head, thus reducing eye, neck, and head strain.
Yoga gets your blood flowing. Stretching, meditation, and relaxation-three definitive qualities of yoga-help circulation. Circulation brings more oxygen to your cells, and those cells bring oxygenated blood to your brain and organs. When your brain is feeling relaxed and the blood is pumping through your veins, you become more productive.
Yoga is an accessible exercise that can be done even a few feet from your desk. Taking the time to move and stretch will make you feel refreshed and energized, increasing physical and mental performance.
Ana Codallo, CTO, Key Opinion Leaders
Improved respiration and circulatory health are immediate benefits of practicing yoga. The right breathing techniques promote better circulation throughout the respiratory system. The mental clarity one gains through regular yoga helps keep the rhythm and pattern to do so. These same techniques can directly influence cardiac health, too.
Annu Daniel, CEO, Elohim Company
I recently started practicing yoga, mainly to help with an issue I had been dealing with since I was 27—chronic low-back pain. I usually spent long hours sitting in the office, and this had a negative effect on my back health. I knew I needed to try something different, like yoga, that could help me improve.
It has been amazing to see the differences I can already feel after only a few weeks of practicing yoga. I have much more flexibility and strength in my back, and I plan to keep up with it as part of the healthy lifestyle I am creating for myself. I highly encourage anyone suffering from chronic back pain to consider adding yoga into their lifestyle—you won't regret it!
Mark McShane, Director, Manchester First Aid Course
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment and being fully present and aware of your surroundings, thoughts, and feelings. Yoga involves being present at the moment and focusing on your breath and physical movements, which can help to increase mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness has been shown to have a number of benefits, including reducing stress, improving focus and concentration, and increasing self-awareness. By becoming more mindful through the practice of yoga, you may be able to better manage your thoughts and emotions and make more conscious and deliberate choices in your life.
Nyla Rose, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, BeastBeauty
The benefits of yoga can vary significantly depending on your body, health, goals, and yoga practice. But one benefit that anyone can experience by starting to practice yoga is reducing their stress.
Time and again, studies have shown that yoga can improve your mental health and mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and even provide relief from depression and other conditions. Yoga engages both mind and body to reduce stress, which can also improve your health in other ways, such as lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
As with other forms of exercise, yoga can release endorphins that make you feel good and lower your stress levels. But yoga can also promote relaxation through guided meditation and breathing techniques. Breathing deeply, becoming more aware, and calming your mind can all contribute to reducing your stress.
Brandt Passalacqua, Founder, Director, & Lead Teacher, Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy
When working with athletes and regular clients, there are a few things you can do to make their yoga session even more beneficial.
Tailor the practice to the individual. No two bodies are the same. Therefore, a yoga workout that is good for one isn’t necessarily good for another. Plus, not every client has the same workout needs. This is important because certain yoga poses provide different benefits. For example, a twist yoga pose is good for stimulating the nervous system and increasing energy. That makes this pose beneficial to a client who feels tired and fatigued. Conversely, forward fold poses quiet the nervous system. This is helpful to an athlete who is so revved up that they would benefit from slowing down.
Consider the yoga style. There are many different styles of yoga. Each is performed differently and, therefore, provides different effects. Bikram yoga, for instance, consists of a 26-pose sequence performed in a room that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity (5). Research indicates that this form of hot yoga helps improve mindfulness and decrease stress. It also improves balance and flexibility and enhances cardiorespiratory endurance. Power yoga is different in that the same sequence is not followed every time. Plus, studies indicate that this style tends to be more energizing (6). It also helps reduce salivary cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a role in your ability to respond to stress, fight infection, and regulate blood pressure.
Develop an appropriate yoga sequence. Not every yoga class has to be the same. You can vary poses (or use a completely different yoga style) from one training session to the next. The thing to keep in mind is that following a specific sequence is important. It can help your athlete transition from one pose to the next more smoothly and with less injury risk. As an example, do standing poses beforehand balances. This helps the athlete keep proper form before getting too tired.
Aim to seamlessly incorporate yoga into their current training regimen. Tell an athlete that you’re going to add more training into their workout program and be ready to receive a huge eyeroll. It’s likely they’re already spending a good bit of time building muscle in the weight room or, if they are an endurance athlete, working on their cardio. Seek to incorporate yoga in a way that doesn’t dramatically alter their current practice. This may involve reducing the amount of time in a certain training area to allow enough time to fit yoga in.
Help them understand the benefits. Yoga dates back to 5,000 BCE (Before Common Era). Yet, many people are still unfamiliar with the benefits this practice offers. All they know is that it involves breathing a certain way as you do different poses. To get them more excited, talk with them about the benefits of adding yoga to their training. Help them see the ways it can improve their performance and reduce their risk of injury. Develop an athlete’s guide to yoga that explains all of the value it offers.
If you’d like to learn more about yoga and how to develop a practice for your clients, sign up for ISSA’s Yoga 200, an online yoga teacher training program. This course prepares you to become an effective yoga teacher. It does this by going over the different yoga styles, proper form for each individual asana (yoga posture), breathing, and more.
The Yoga Alliance Approved Yoga Teacher Training You’ve Been Looking For.
Polsgrove, M. J., Eggleston, B. M., & Lockyer, R. J. (2016). Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. International journal of yoga, 9(1), 27–34. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.171710
Bueno, A. M., Pilgaard, M., Hulme, A., Forsberg, P., Ramskov, D., Damsted, C., & Nielsen, R. O. (2018). Injury prevalence across sports: a descriptive analysis on a representative sample of the Danish population. Injury epidemiology, 5(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-018-0136-0
Arbo GD, Brems C, Tasker TE. Mitigating the antecedents of sports-related injury through yoga. Int J Yoga (serial online). 2020 (cited 2023 Feb 13);13:120-9. Available from: https://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2020/13/2/120/283668
Hewett, Z. L., Ransdell, L. B., Gao, Y., Petlichkoff, L. M., & Lucas, S. (2011). An examination of the effectiveness of an 8-week bikram yoga program on mindfulness, Perceived stress, and physical fitness. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 9(2), 87–92. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1728-869x(12)60003-3
Sullivan M, Carberry A, Evans ES, Hall EE, Nepocatych S. The effects of power and stretch yoga on affect and salivary cortisol in women. Journal of Health Psychology. 2019;24(12):1658-1667. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105317694487
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