Seasoned athletes are typically used to the same type of training. Whether it's on the field or in the gym, many don’t consider it a beneficial workout unless they finish in a pool of sweat, completely exhausted from heavy weights and strenuous exercise. As a personal trainer, my job is to create training programs that ensure my clients perform at their peak. However, it's not just dumbbells, sprints, and leg presses that I put them through. There's another integral component to any athlete's workout regime: yoga.
From six-foot hockey players to five-foot gymnasts, yoga has proven to not only improve their flexibility and strength, but also their mental focus and clarity. Many athletes attest that regular meditation and yoga practice have helped them stay clear and alert in their career's most stressful moments. By centering their energy and staying calm, they are able to remain focused in those last crucial seconds of overtime.
Yoga has the ability to enhance every athlete's performance. Consistent practice of various yoga asanas can help build strength, lean muscle, and stability in a vigorous training program. It also benefits weight lifters because it increases their range of motion. For example, Kundalini Frog Squats strengthen your legs, thighs, and glutes, which then helps improve strength squats with a barbell in the gym.
The Cobra Pose is great for the spine and buttocks as well as the chest, shoulders, and abdomen, which can then help with performing bent-over rows. When performing many types of deadlifts or similar exercises, the downward dog can be extremely beneficial since it helps strengthen shoulders, upper back, arms and wrists while also stretching the posterior chain (spine, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles).
Various Kundalini sit poses enhance walking lunges, while arm balance poses like Crane Pose or the Chaturanga Dandasana, Four-Limbed Staff Pose, improve performance of handstand push-ups. These yoga exercises help prevent overuse and injury by strengthening the supportive muscles around more utilized muscles. Plus they work on functional alignment so they gain better awareness for their next lifting session.
Yoga and weight training actually work in tandem; while yoga enhances Yin energy, weight training increases Yang energy. When used together, they provide the energy that allows us to stay balanced, creating homeostasis in the body. That's why weight training also benefits yogis as well, as it helps maintain strength and prevents hypermobility.
Yoga improves coordination and balance; these two components are crucial for athletes in order to gain enhanced control over their entire body. They are also key to better technique and form, plus flexibility of the muscles and joints allows for a greater range of motion. That’s why I, as well as other trainers I work with, always send our clients to yoga classes each week as part of their overall training program.
Being an athlete doesn’t just mean you can bench press 300 pounds and run a 100-metre dash in 15 seconds. It means you are in-tune and honor your body from the inside, out. That's why real athletes do yoga.
Kim McMullen: Sports have always been an integral part of my life from a young age. I've played soccer all over the world as both an amateur and professional athlete. After modeling in New York, I returned back home to Vancouver and became a personal trainer at Elite Performance Fitness. After all of my experiences, I can attest that the recipe for a great life is to hold yourself to a high moral standard, treat everyone you meet with respect, appreciate the small things, and laugh as much as possible.