Let me start off by saying the one thing you’re all thinking- I’m biased. Obviously. I’m super into fitness and I teach yoga. But hear me out!
There was a study published last year that looked at the effects of a 10-week yoga program on a college level soccer team1. The yoga completed was reported to be slow-paced and low-impact, with each class lasting 45 minutes. Following 10 weeks of regular yoga practice, subjective reports of fatigue and general well-being each improved when compared to data gathered prior to the study. And that’s just after 10 weeks to a group of athletes required to complete a yoga program. I can’t help but wonder what the results would look like for athletes who regularly participated in a personalized, meaningful yoga program that they got to choose.
I have always considered myself an athlete. I grew up playing basketball and running competitively. Eventually, I got injured to the point that I couldn’t play basketball anymore (thanks ankles) but I continued to run like crazy. And then I couldn’t. I couldn’t run without these horrible back spasms that wouldn’t stop. These spasms were powerful and completely debilitating. I went from being able to run a half marathon with little to no actual training (fun fact- I agreed to run my first marathon with ~15 hours of notice), to not being able to run half a mile without stopping to lay down on the sidewalk while waiting for my spasms to stop.
Long story short, I kept trying yoga to help with my spasms. I didn’t enjoy it, but I was desperate for help. I kept hearing about the “miracles” of yoga for back pain so I kept trying different instructors, styles, durations, time of day…everything! And eventually, it worked. My spasms slowly stopped. Then the strangest thing happened…I grew to love my yoga time.
My story isn’t unique. It’s not original. I hear it all the time: People taking up yoga to help them recover from an injury. But the question that keeps coming to my mind is “why do we keep waiting for an injury to happen for us to start doing yoga?”. Why don’t we start before we get injured? If done correctly, yoga helps balance out various muscle groups, strengthens your core, increases body awareness, promotes flexibility, and has literally too many other benefits to list. Each of those areas are beneficial for an athlete.
Learn from my mistake. Please. I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that yoga is appropriate for each and every person walking on Earth (although modifications may be necessary). But regardless of the sport, adding yoga to an athlete’s fitness routine seems like it should be a no-brainer. It’s worth saying that the same yoga poses will likely not be appropriate for all athletes. I am a huge advocate for personalized yoga, meaning that not only should your yoga be personalized to your sport but it should also be personalized to YOU. So if you’re an athlete, take an inventory of where you’re feeling tightness/weakness and try taking a class that address those areas.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Please let me know in the comments if there are any other topics you would like to me address.
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1. Arbo, G.D., Brems, C., Tasker, T.E. (2020). Mitigating the antecedents of sports-related injury through yoga. International Journal of Yoga,13(2),120-129. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_93_19