Cross Training? Try Yoga
Serious athletes are looking for ways to get the edge in their sports. Competition today is fierce; the level of accomplishment is high, and there is only a very small fraction, that separates top competitors in most sports. Consequently, everyone is looking for the key that will improve performance, the something that will give them the advantage. Yoga is that key.........and then some.
Almost all sports emphasize muscles in certain parts of the body rather than all of the body's major muscles. Some sports develop one side of the body more than the other side. Others work more on the upper part of the body while others stress the legs and lower torso.
Almost no sports work equally on all of the major muscle groups in the body. Superficially, this may appear to be okay since each sport requires strength in particular muscle groups to excel. From an overall health point of view, however, the over-development of one particular part of the body affects spinal alignment which eventually affects one's general health.
For quite some time now athletics has recognized the importance of flexibility in preventing injuries, particularly strains and sprains. Flexibility is also important in that having a flexible body means that the arteries which supply oxygen-rich blood to the muscles are also flexible and elastic and can stretch to carry more blood when demanded by that part of the body.
A proper yoga class works on stretching and strengthening all of the major muscles groups in the body, balancing both the muscle tone and muscle length (flexibility), and helps to deliver maximum blood flow to all parts of the body.
There are other aspects of yoga which give athletes a little extra edge. Both yogic breathing and yogic concentration exercises stretch the limits of one's performance.
Even though serious ,well-conditioned athletes have much greater than average lung capacity, most still don't optimism their lungs. They breath very deeply with the upper parts of their lungs (thoracic and clavicular breathing), but most don't really utilize the lower parts of the lungs(diaphragmatic breathing). Learning yogic breathing techniques and exercises helps utilize these lower parts and increases lung capacity up to 50%. Some scuba divers, for example who have learned yogic breathing techniques have, with practice over time, almost doubled the time they were able to stay under on a tank of air.
Concentration exercises are practiced throughout proper yoga classes. These exercises affect the athlete in many ways. They increase awareness and expand one's focus, particularly making one more aware of the details which often make the difference between first and second place.