Using Yoga to Enhance Athletic Performance

These days, you can’t find many athletes or teams that haven’t incorporated some form of yoga, be it collegiate, pro, or even the weekend warrior, because the words is out that yoga improves performance.

It’s true that yoga is very beneficial to sports performance. It’s being incorporated into team warm-ups, NFL and MLB training rooms. Many athletes are seeking yoga classes for better balance, injury prevention, mental focus, regeneration and even healing injury.

Yoga’s superpowers are many, from learning how to properly use the breath with movement, to creating stability and mobility, to engaging parasympathetic nervous system for regeneration, and creating balance where there is misalignment and weakness.

But yoga can also impede performance if you choose the wrong type. Because there are so many forms of yoga to choose from and so many things that factor into selecting the proper form, an athlete needs to know what to look for in a teacher, a class, and the best type of yoga to suit the sport-specific need without compromising the athlete’s body, joints, or just overtraining by falling into the “more is better” philosophy.

Here’s how to make sure yoga is enhancing performance:

  • Look for a teacher who has a background in alignment. Stretching is not beneficial when forced, but align a body to its optimal blue print and the opening will happen.
  • Seek either a teacher who can serve your needs within the group class or get a few private lessons. Learn the correct way to align the body in the asana (yoga postures) and the correct way to breathe before just going for it.
  • Don't seek yoga that gives another workout (unless it's off-season). Let the trainers and coaches give the workouts; let yoga serve the focus, regeneration and healing.
  • Do not add heat or do repetitive motion unless there is impeccable alignment. Even then, too much heated yoga can easily add to overtraining.
  • If possible, seek a teacher with sports knowledge who understands how to fill the need of the athlete in-season, post-season, and pre-season. A good yoga/sports teacher will know common sports injury and the applied yoga therapy as well as how to harness and transfer ground energy.
  • Most importantly, make sure it makes you feel good. Yoga focuses on the body as a whole and can reveal weaknesses and imbalance. A good yoga class will show you how to balance your mind and body, and make you feel great all at the same time.