Yoga as a Cross-Training Technique
Yoga is an ancient practice rooted
in Indian philosophy. Originally observed as a method of reaching spiritual
enlightenment, yoga is a combination of physical postures, breathing exercises,
and meditation that aims to bring balance to the mind and body.
Yoga’s popularity is growing. Many
use it to relieve stress and anxiety, as well as ease physical conditions like
high blood pressure or stiff muscles.
While studies are
ongoing, recent trials have examined yoga’s effects on back pain and reducing
stress levels. Following a 24-week trial, researchers at West Virginia
University found that yoga decreases “functional disability, pain intensity,
and depression” in people with chronic low-back pain.
For athletes used to
intense workouts and competitive atmospheres, including regular yoga practice
in their training routine can offer many benefits. Yoga for cross training
helps improve flexibility and balance, works parts of the body that may be
overlooked in the regular fitness routine, and teaches stress-reduction
Yoga requires precise
technique and mental focus. The combination of breathing work, meditation, and
postures is meant to bring clarity to the mind while increasing strength and
balance in the body. Athletes in particular can benefit from the relaxation
techniques of yoga, developed through poses such as the corpse pose. This posepromotes
relaxation and clearing of the mind.
Though it may look
easy, corpse pose requires the total release of your entire body. To enter this reclined pose,
gently extend each leg, relaxing the pelvis towards the floor. Allow your arms
to fall beside your body, palms facing up. To center your spine, roll gently
from side to side. Once comfortably in the pose, continue to breathe deeply,
concentrating on your breath and quieting your mind.
Part of the
complexity of corpse pose comes from trying to relax all parts of the body. This
includes calming restless eyeballs, softening the tongue, and relaxing the
forehead. After holding corpse pose for about five minutes, roll onto your side
and gently lift your body up, bringing your head up last.
A common yoga myth is
that yoga is reserved for the very flexible. While one of the main benefits of
regular yoga practice is better flexibility, it is not a prerequisite. The
practice of yoga is open to everyone. Each individual works at their own
personal level and pace.
The stretching element
of yoga can help release the tight muscles of a runner or the stiff shoulders
of a tennis player. Even for the average person who may not run every day or
play a major sport, stretching eases the aches associated with daily repetitive
activities. Slouching while at the
computer and driving a car multiple times a day are two examples of repetitive activities
that eventually take a toll on the body.
Runners and cyclists
tend to get tight hamstrings, and both activities can lead to injuries and
overused muscles. Effective yoga poses involve opening up the hips and
lengthening the hamstrings and calves.
Bound Angle Pose
From a seated
position on the floor, bring the soles of your feet together in front of you.
Your knees should remain wide apart. Keeping your back tall and straight, take
a deep breath and inhale. On the exhale, lean forward, keeping the back flat.
The goal is to focus on relaxing your neck and sinking deeply and comfortably
into the pose, stretching your hips without rounding your back or dropping your
head. If you can’t extend your face to your toes, only go as far as you feel
Whether you’re a
professional swimmer or you go swing dancing for fun twice a week, it is
important to have good core strength for good posture. Poor posture can lead to muscle
imbalances. Most athletes face the challenge of
muscular imbalance. If you are someone who only dances, for example, and does
not engage in other physical activity, your dancing may cause more harm than
good, placing excessive stress on the knees, hips, and ankles. For this, yoga
offers a method of bringing balance to the whole body, including the core.
Regular yoga practice
builds core strength and offers an additional form of isometric training for
athletes. Isometric training, which involves holding a position without moving,
can help maintain strength. Upward plank
pose, for example, helps provide the leg strength, hip flexibility, and agile
arms required for kickboxing.
From a seated position, lean back so you are balanced
between the buttocks and the tailbone. Keep the upper body leaning back with
the back straight and tall, and raise the legs to a 45 degree angle with the
arms raised at your sides. You can bend the legs if holding your legs straight
is too difficult. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, Rest and repeat.
From amateur to athlete, the strain of sports
can affect your physical and mental health. Athletes who use yoga to increase
flexibility, relieve chronic pain, and reduce stress will also discover the
benefits of yoga for improving their performance.