Yoga for Athletes: 5 Reasons Yoga Should Be Included in Athletic Training




Did you know that it is pretty common for athletic trainers to require their athletes to take ballet classes as a part of their training?

It’s true. Football players, particularly, can often be found in a ballet studio on the regular. Why?

Because ballet is a rigorous, no impact exercise that lengthens, strengthens, tones, and helps athletes with balance, spacial awareness, and injury prevention. Sound familiar?

It should! Yoga improves all of those areas and more! 

What athletes aren’t getting from ballet class that they would get from yoga is stress reduction, pain relief, and a mindfulness practice. Professional athletes really benefit from having appropriate ways to manage the stresses of their job. They are under immense pressure to perform well at every game and to constantly be pushing themselves to better their abilities.

Here at My Yoga Teacher, we want everyone to feel comfortable pursuing their dreams, even if that means pushing your body to extremes. If you haven’t checked us out yet, you definitely should! You can click here to get your free 2-week trial membership and try out the 35+ different classes we offer!

We just want people in all walks of life to have the tools necessary to find balance in their lives, harmony with their inner and outer selves...while pursuing their dreams.

And we have some thoughts on how yoga benefits athletes!

1. Yoga aids in muscle recovery.

It’s no secret that athletes have sore muscles. When they’re not participating in their sport, they’re training for it. 

Athletes use (and overuse) their muscles. While nutrition plays a huge role in muscle recovery, restorative yoga does too. Together, nutrition and restorative yoga  help athletes with tight, sore, aching muscles find relief without the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications, something that is often abused by athletes.

Yoga also works quickly to help muscles recover. One yoga session can provide instant relief. Restorative yoga optimizes recovery by:

  • Relieving tension in the muscles
  • Improving circulation
  • Increasing blood flow to vital organs
  • Improving lung capacity
  • Boosts immunity

It’s not uncommon for athletes to get sick. They’re around a lot of people and often performing in extreme weather conditions. Yoga is one way to help keep athletes well and restore their bodies so they can keep doing what they do best!

Which leads us to…

2. Yoga prevents injuries

Many athletes work the same muscles every day, or almost every day. This means that “smaller,” supporting muscles don’t get the same amount of strengthening, toning, and stretching as the major muscles an athlete uses to perform their sport.

The main reasons athletes incur injuries are due to:

  • Stress on their joints from quick twisting motions
  • Not properly warming up
  • Imbalanced training that works some muscles over others
  • Overuse of muscles
  • Tight overworked muscles that lose flexibility over time

A regular yoga practice means athletes work all their muscles, evenly. Even slower paced yoga, like yin yoga or Hatha yoga, stretches muscles that don’t consistently get stretched.

In sports like tennis, baseball, and golf, particularly, yoga brings more balanced training. Any sport that uses only one or two major muscle groups means the athlete is more prone to injury in other areas of the body.

Consistently practicing yoga is an excellent way to prevent injuries in all athletes.

3. Yoga reduces athletic stress

Part of an athlete’s job is training. Every day. When working out is a primary part of your job, it can create stress instead of relieving it.

Because athletes are already under a lot of stress when they compete, stress due to training and the general pressures of being an athlete (especially a professional athlete) causes the release of cortisol.

Chronically high levels of cortisol cause the muscles in the body to break down, deteriorate, and decrease immune function. All of which can cause injuries and illness.

Not to mention all the other ways elevated cortisol levels are bad for your body.

Learning deep breathing and meditation techniques are almost always a part of a regular yoga practice. Athletes benefit from yoga being a part of their athletic training in more ways than just physical.

The mental and emotional stress of being an athlete affects their focus, as well as their professional and private lives.

A regular yoga practice is scientifically proven to reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression, improve mental focus, release feel good chemicals, and help yogis be more present in their lives.

Athletes need yoga to perform their jobs better.

4. Yoga improves athletes’ sleeping patterns

Have you ever worked out late at night? Or even early evening? 

Working out releases endorphins, amongst other feel good chemicals, which perk you up. Sometimes that energy is short lived, but sometimes it’s not. And that can interrupt or even prevent a good night’s sleep.

Athletes often struggle with irregular sleeping patterns. Professional athletes often perform later in the day or evening and then take part in after game parties or public relations events.

Yoga literally trains the body to relax. Studies show that long-time practitioners of yoga experience better sleep quality and sleep patterns. It increases melatonin production, the chemical that helps you fall asleep, and helps calm the central nervous system through mindfulness and breathing exercises.

Three types of yoga best for sleep?

  1. Hatha yoga - This type of yoga involves gentle asanas and lots of breath work that focuses on a longer inhalation, holding the breath, and then exhaling.
  2. Yin yoga - Yin yoga is mostly a passive practice that focuses on stretching and releasing deep connective tissues, fascia, and bones. Breathing is usually steady and slow and passive poses are held for longer periods of time.
  3. Yoga Nidra - This is a yogic sleep, done lying down (of course!) and focuses on getting the body into a meditative state somewhere between sleep and awake.

If you’ve never tried these forms of yoga before, My Yoga Teacher offers all three at various different times of day! Not to mention, our classes are live and virtual so you get the real time attention of an expert yoga instructor from the comfort of your home (or whatever space you’re comfortable in)!

5. Yoga improves core strength

It may seem obvious that athletes such as football players, boxers, wrestlers, gymnasts, and dancers regularly work their core muscles. For them (and other types of athletes), core muscles are imperative to their performance.

However, that doesn’t mean those athletes are training their core in a comprehensive way. It could be they’re doing the same core exercises every day or working certain ones more than others.

And there are lots of different kinds of athletes who probably don’t focus on their core, like golfers, bowlers, basketball players, softball/baseball players, and skiers to name a few.

This doesn’t mean they don’t need their core. This just means core strength isn’t a focus in order to perform their sport.

Strong core muscles are really important for any kind of movement. They prevent back and other skeletal injuries and help stabilize muscles and joints. Most types of yoga include a well-rounded strengthening and stretching of all the core muscles. 

Athletes benefit from yoga in many ways, but core strength is probably one of the most important because it prevents injuries!

And that’s something worth talking about.

We would love to see you on the mat in any of the classes offered at My Yoga Teacher, whether you’re an athlete or not! Grab your 2-week free trial here and experience all the classes we have to offer taught by highly experienced, expert yoga teachers from the birthplace of yoga, India!


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