Nearly 20 million Americans are now practicing yoga for many reasons- to improve health, well-being, and happiness are among a few. Yoga is also a wonderful practice for athletes. What are athletes seeking? Practicing yoga will improve strength, fitness, flexibility, endurance, and performance.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years to awaken and guide us towards freedom from suffering. These same practices will also improve our lives in very practical ways, including experiencing clarity, aliveness, peace and joy.
In most athletic endeavors it is more often the flexibility of an athlete, not their strength, which is their limitation. The practice of yoga postures (asanas) balances strength, conditioning and flexibility. Yoga is an exploration of the body. The practitioner of yoga gets to know their body, how it functions, the changing nature of its limitations, and how to work with these changes as we seek to perform better.
The practice of yoga breathing (pranayama) will improve the aerobic capacity and endurance of the athlete. Yoga breathing deepens the breath and improves the strength and capacity of the diaphragm and lungs. It improves core strength and teaches us how to control and regulate the breath in situations of challenge.
As most athletes already know, it is their mind that is the biggest block to performing at their best. It is in their performance that the athlete might see the most improvement from the practice of yoga. The primary goal of yoga is to calm the mind. Athletes often undermine themselves with their self-defeating thoughts. The practice of yoga teaches the athlete to calm their mind, and step back into their witness consciousness. From this place the athlete is able to observe their own performance, without judgment, and can see more clearly how to move towards their highest level and best performance.
Yoga has been around a very long time, longer than any modern athletic endeavor. It has survived the millennia because it works. It improves people’s lives and enables them to live more fulfilled, active and rewarding lives. Everyone can benefit from the practice of yoga, especially athletes.
About Greg Barringer:
Greg Barringer is the Director of Yoga for Scarsdale Yoga Studios, LLC, a full-spectrum yoga studio in Westchester, New York. A Yoga Alliance-certified teacher, Greg has been practicing for 20 years, and has completed advanced studies in yoga and meditation. Greg holds a 200-hour certification from Kripalu School of Yoga, the largest Yoga center in North America. Greg is also 500-hour certified by the Amrit Yoga Institute and is a certified Thai Yoga practitioner. Before arriving at Scarsdale Yoga Studios, Greg coached hundreds of athletes in competitive events with an emphasis on rowing, and taught a seminar at MIT called “Achieving Peak Performance.” Greg realizes that not only does yoga improve strength and flexibility, it is beneficial for all athletes in training, because of the breath exercises.