Pro Athletes turn to Yoga for Injury Prevention and Cure
The benefits of yoga, ranging from increased flexibility to improved concentration, are not the preserve of those who have struggled with their physical or mental health in the past. In fact, athletes who practice yoga often cite immense improvements in their overall health.
Many physical therapists and other experts have touted the science behind the practice’s ability to prevent and heal injuries among those who frequently play sports.
What the male yogis say about practice.
Because yoga first became popular with women when it arrived in the West as a fitness craze, many men have become afraid to attend classes. However, those that do, often enjoy it, and maintain a regular practice.
Jake Panasevic, who played soccer and wrestled through college, became a yoga instructor for athletes, including an American MLS team. His mission has been to show men how beneficial yoga can be for professional athletes.
Panasevic recently told Philly.com about his journey to finding yoga. He admits being dragged to a class by a former girlfriend, after which he experienced weight loss and a reprieve from back pain.
Not only does yoga help heal existing injuries and prevent new ones, it also aids athletes with body fluidity, Panasevic told the news source. The practice gives balance and flexibility to those who need to be at their peak performance.
Basic yoga poses, modified to each athlete’s allowances, provide practitioners with more awareness of their bodies.
What the experts are saying
“Endurance athletes generally have poor flexibility, core strength, balance, and posture”, said Joe Friel, author of Training Bibles for cyclists and mountain bikers. “Improving these can really change performance for the better.”
Sage Rountree, yoga instructor, endurance athlete, and author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, argues that the practice makes people perform better through balance, and whole-body strength. Furthermore, yoga helps athletes’ concentration and breath awareness, improving mental focus and endurance.
Joan Nesbit Mabe, an Olympic track, road, and cross-country runner, also used yoga for her athletic advantage.
“Yoga helped me set a world age-group record in the indoor mile and an outdoor American record in the 1500m at age 45”, Mabe wrote in the forward to Rountree’s The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga that “Yoga should have been—and will be from here on out—added to the mix of ingredients for success for any serious endurance athlete”.
Beryl Bender Birch, author of Power Yoga and Beyond Power Yoga, founder of the Hard and the Soft Yoga Institute, and contributor to Yoga Journal, says the practice is essential for athletes. Birch cites the fact that running and cycling can overwork muscle groups while tennis and golf only work one side of the body. Yoga provides athletes in these sports with the mental focus to pay attention to their bodies, which helps in injury prevention.
Although many people still view yoga as a women’s past-time, the practice’s benefits contribute to overall health for both sexes. Yoga is also very helpful in improving athletes’ balance and flexibility, in addition to injury healing and prevention.