Updated: Jan 21
Whether it’s on the field, court or in the pool, athletes put their bodies through a lot week in week out, striving for improvements in stamina, strength and general athleticism. If you wish to develop your physique for sports, you’ll no doubt have a training plan that aims to develop specific areas of your body and game.
Whilst this may involve moving heavy weights a couple of times a week or a bit of HIIT, more and more athletes are reaping the benefits of having a tailored yoga plan as part of their training. Basketball King LeBron James has credited yoga as a major factor contributing to his envious stamina levels.
Ma'a Nonu of the All Blacks has actually normalised Yoga within the All Blacks Squad, with many other members incorporating Yoga into their training. Beauden Barrett revealed he has seen the benefits of this stating "I've been working on my flexibility, that's been vital for me," he said. "I'm quite a stiff bloke so extra sessions here and there have certainly helped.”
There may be a stigma out there that Yoga is just for girls, but at the end of the day your body is a tool and you need it to function properly and perform at its optimum. If you don’t look after it properly you’re going to struggle. This is where Yoga can help.
Whilst a 200kg squat or bench press is no doubt impressive, your body can become adjusted to this movement. You can progressively overload to gain strength incrementally, but as with any sport or set routine, you are constantly focusing on the same muscles with the same movements. Yoga can completely switch this up and give your body an unexpected workout.
A lot of moves in yoga involve constantly supporting your body weight, providing the tension that will give you the strength to control and move your body that no amount of reps will. This could mean winning more of those 50/50s or extra force in those scrums.
One study found that consistently practicing yoga helped increase the 1 rep max of participants bench press and shoulder press.
In any sport, balance is key and when it lets you down it can either result in a slightly embarrassing moment or even an injury, just ask Louis Van Gall.
The movements in yoga help you control your body weight better, with some types consistently moving from one pose into the other strengthening all of the little stabilizing muscles that might be missed in other physical workouts and are vital in protecting your joints.
If your balance is poor, yoga will help improve this over time, poses like the below may seem impossible to beginners but after time and dedication it will be mastered in no time.
In a small study in 2015 by The International Journal of Yoga participants showed improved flexibility, balance and technique in college athletes over 10 weeks of yoga practice.
In any sport being agile and flexible can be a tremendous advantage, a quick shimy here, one step over there, or an incredible bicycle kick. We don’t know if Gareth Bale does Yoga, but he probably does.
The movements in yoga can go a great way improving your overall flexibility, you warm up and down to ensure your muscles don’t go tight and recover efficiently. The movement and poses in yoga can lengthen and stretch muscles, a well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion.
This can in turn improve athletic performance. imagine an easier, less restricted golf swing or tennis serve.
A last minute penalty, match point, or a Johnny Wilkinson dropkick; The one thing they all have in common is the need to be 100% focused in times of pressure. No panic, no self-doubt. Just knowing what needs to be done and doing it.
Researchers found that people did better — both speed-wise and accuracy-wise — on brain functioning tests after just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, compared with aerobic exercise.
Study researcher Neha Gothe stated, “It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout.”
One of the key aspects of yoga is breathing and focusing on this throughout the movements. Linking your breathing to movements will eventually become second nature to you. This in turn can be passed over into other exercises allowing for oxygen to get to your lungs when they need it most.
Firefly Yoga offers group bookings to sports clubs throughout Caerphilly with tailored classes being designed for specific sports and improving athlete’s performance.