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Benefits of yoga for athletes

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The yoga It is an ancient discipline that arose in India probably from the dawn of humanity. In our days, yoga has become a very widespread practice throughout the world; especially for its physical and mental benefits. In terms of popularity, one thing in its favor is that it directly solves various problems in everyday life today, including sedentary lifestyle, anxiety and stress. But not only do those who find themselves in these situations practice yoga, but even athletes. In fact, countless numbers of benefits of yoga for athletes.

Athletes or not, for many it is not just another way to exercise; becoming for these people an important part of their lives that allows them to find the inner peace and stay healthy. Perhaps the most appealing thing about yoga is the fact that it allows people to connect with themselves; something very difficult for how things are in these times.

The main benefits of yoga for athletes can be grouped in terms of improvements in physical conditions, greater control of body variables and ideal mental states to perform adequately in the face of the challenges that your sport presents.

From east to west: the journey to modern yoga

Etymologically, the term “yoga” means union, and this activity has as its basic objective achieve the fusion of one’s soul with the universe. It is believed to have arisen in India about 300 centuries ago, but modern yoga is just over a century old. It is known that it was introduced in the West by English soldiers returning from India and by several teachers who were beginning to settle in Western countries, thus beginning the different schools that exist today.

Woman practicing yoga, meditation

Sometimes yoga helps people find the inner peace they crave.

Yoga is composed of postures, relaxation and breathing techniques, meditation, “Cleanings”, gestures to channel energy, songs and Mantras (phrases). However, since its westernization, the religious foundations have gradually been left behind to give way to a concentration on the physical aspect. Thus, “Hatha yoga” is the one with the most followers, since it focuses on postures, although it also covers other aspects such as meditation and breathing to a lesser extent.

¿Why is yoga so beneficial in sport?

In a matter of decades, yoga has even become part of gyms and sports centers in many places. The sports benefits of yoga practice have attracted the attention of many elite athletes, as well as others who train solely to improve their physical condition.

Perhaps one of the things that most “enchants” athletes to enter the world of yoga is the discovery of a radically different training concept they were used to. After all, the approach of achieving integration of the body as a whole can reveal hidden weaknesses until that moment; which gives them an opportunity to improve in areas that they could never have perfected otherwise.

Some of the athletes who have been helped by this ancient practice are basketball player LeBron James, soccer player Ryan Giggs and tennis player Maria Sharapova, being stars in their disciplines.

But what are the benefits of yoga for athletes specifically?

Perhaps you are of the opinion that all of the above does not stop sounding a bit mystical and keeps the concrete elements something like floating in a nebula. So we will move on to the precise facts at once, always taking into account the information provided by research that demonstrates the benefits of yoga for athletes.

1. Greater flexibility

Most yoga asanas (postures) increase the ability to move the muscles and joints of the practitioner; which translates to a greater flexibility. Several are the studies that support this theory, like one carried out by the University Center Doncaster in the United Kingdom; which showed that a weekly yoga session for a month and a half is enough to begin to show improvements in this quality.

Woman practicing yoga

Flexibility is one of the greatest benefits from yoga practice

2. Reduce stress

Diseases such as stress, anxiety and depression also reach athletes, which can sometimes seriously impair their sports performance.

A joint study by scientists from Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the Yoga Research Society revealed that practicing yoga daily significantly lowers blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Even, according to a study by Ohio State University in the United States, just practicing a 20-minute session a day produces a notable reduction in cortisol levels.

3. Increase strength

Certain yoga postures need to be held for a long time, which stimulates isometric contractions of the muscles and thus leads to a strength gain.

According to research published by the International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health, the parts of the body that benefit the most are the arms, shoulders, legs, buttocks, back and abdomen (almost the entire body, for fewer complications). It also showed that improves body stability and prevents various injuries typical of sports such as swimming and cycling.

4. Helps in recovery

Rest periods are extremely important in maintaining athletic performance. In this sense, practicing yoga is a way to actively recover; which means that while the body employs processes of tissue repair and restoration of necessary metabolites, the good level is not lost.

According to a recent publication in the International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development, yoga breathing methods promote lymph detoxification. This accelerates recovery after physical exercise and reduces fatigue.

5. Improves mood

The right moods are necessary to maintain good athletic performance. For this reason, it is very important to have a relatively strict control of such psychological variables.

An investigation published in The Primary Care Companion CNS Disorders concluded that practicing yoga regularly is a fairly effective way to treat patients with disorders such as depression and anxiety. In addition, other research, published this time in The Journal of Complementary Medicine, revealed that this activity enhances the biosynthesis of GABA; This is a neurotransmitter linked to the ability to concentrate, decreased stress levels, and improvements in mood.

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