Most people, especially athletes come to yoga with the intention of increasing flexibility. The truth is yoga offers so much more as far as benefits to athletes on the field of play. Balance, strength, flexibility, refined breathing techniques, mental toughness, and visualization of their goals. Today, let’s focus on the suppleness, flexibility aspect.
I hear two schools of thought on flexibility from the mouths of my athlete’s ages ranging from little leaguers to Professionals and Olympic champs,
- “I am too tight I will never get flexible”
- ”If I get too flexible I will lose strength”
Both statements are very silly at best! Every person, athlete or not suffers from tight areas and stiffness, even world champ gymnasts struggle with less than optimum areas on their body. My philosophy with my athletes is not to get them to do a split or put their leg behind their head. These goals would have no relevance to their sport performance and success. My goal with them is to get them more symmetrical, aware and flexible than they are when they start. Of course if you are a first baseman it would benefit you to do a split, if you are an offensive lineman a split is ridiculous but open wrists and chest is applicable. Be smart with your yoga training and just give it a little thought mixed with common sense. Be a better version of you.
The second statement is my favorite. I have a simple analogy that is the essence of Power Yoga for Sports…Strength + Flexibility = Power
Think on this for a moment:
If you have a bow and arrow, the bow is so strong it will not break, however the bow string is so tight, when you pull the bow string back it can only pull back an inch or two. Release the arrow…and what happens? The arrow goes without any authority behind it and the arrow plops to the floor. NOW, take a bow whose bow string is so strong it will not break AND so flexible you can pull it all the way back, beyond your ear, release and zzzingg. It is so easy to see the power behind the strength plus flexibility. The same idea holds true for your body and muscles.
You want more power on the field? Increase your flexibility with the same enthusiasm that you hit the weights. In addition having the suppleness of your muscles will help you be proactive about injuries. Orthopedic studies show that more open and flexible the hips are the lower the incident of injury to the knees. If you think about it, if you have cement tight hips and you are in a quick moving agile movement sport, like tennis, soccer, hoops, hockey etc…when you make quick movements on the dime or if you are impacted by the ground or an opponent, the potential energy of the impact has to go somewhere. If the hips do not give way for you (due to tightness) then the most vulnerable part will, always a complex knee joint. Makes sense right? This idea can be applied to all areas of your body. Another great reason the think of your body with a holistic view and as an entity connected and working in harmony with itself.
Other catch phrases for Power Yoga for Sports are:
- be proactive, not reactive
- take care of your body before an injury happens
- Stay in the moment and aware of what you are feeling
- trust your instincts
A successful athlete with longevity is a rare gem in the sports world. Take command of your training. Do not be afraid to increase your flexibility. You will reap the rewards of your time.