Yoga is beneficial for more than just a solid deep stretching session, it also transforms awareness along with increasing your flexibility and breath control. It teaches you things about your body and your mind while forcing you to be in the moment. Nearly every elite athlete has practiced yoga at some point in their training, whether for recovery, cross training, or its endless meditative elements. Six-time Olympic swimming medalist Rebecca Soni highlights five benefits for adding yoga to your weekly training regime. Soni explains that “[i]t’s not all about the poses! Sure, yoga is an obvious choice for an athlete to add to their cross training, but here are some other great reasons to get into the studio…”
Five benefits for adding yoga to your training:
- You finally get to BREATHE! In our everyday lives and often in our training, we do not allow ourselves to fully breathe. Left to our own devices this pattern of shallow breathing continues. In yoga, most teachers incorporate the INHALE and the EXHALE into the movements, which will automatically begin to relax the body, and work through your tensions.
- You will get to know yourself. One of the most appreciated and translatable assets my yoga practice gave to my athletic career was a better understanding of my body. The body is an extremely intricate system of muscles and connections that fire automatically for us. Once you begin to better understand how your body moves, what muscles are firing, and how the body is all connected from crown of the head to pinky toe, you’re gaining valuable insights that can be applied back to your training.
- You practice being in the moment. Yoga gives us a great blend of go-at-your-own-pace and unlimited challenges ahead. Whether it’s your first class or your hundredth, there is always more to learn. Within each moment, you are orchestrating the movement of the postures, you’re dialing in to the constant shifting of countless postural details with the pose, you’re keeping your breath moving, and yeah, you’ll probably also have an itch on your nose or sweat dripping into your eyes. Juggling all of this requires you to be in the moment. Start thinking about your day ahead and almost immediately, you’ll be falling out of that tree pose.
- You learn that it’s all in your head. While we do some crazy poses and there are always new moves to learn, the practice of yoga is not about the poses at all. It’s all about putting your body into uncomfortable positions in order to see how your mind will react. Do you convince yourself to back out of the pose when your quads start burning? Do you hesitate to join in the poses that you despise? Do you regularly take breaks at the same parts of the practice? Do you limit yourself before you’ve even started?
- You reboot your energy. Yoga is a total body reboot. Progressing through the poses fires off the right amount of energy from each area of your body. You tune in, you breathe, you challenge your mind to stay in the moment. You’ve activated the body, the mind and the soul. And after all that hard work you get to take a nap. The delight of Savasana (or “corpse pose”) at the end where you slip into a place of total relaxation of all the elements you worked. You’ll walk out like a whole new person!
Excelle Sports lifestyle editor Kim Vandenberg is an Olympic bronze medalist, Pan American gold medalist, World Championship silver medalist and three-time U.S. national champion and French national champion in swimming. She’s also a member of Excelle’s Athletes Council.