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Cross Training with Yoga
The benefits of the physical practice of yoga, asana, have long been celebrated for their ability to positively impact body, mind and spirit. A growing number of professional and recreational athletes are turning to yoga as a cross training method to complement their exercise regime.
There are a variety of reasons to incorporate yoga into the regular fitness routine of your clients. Some of those reasons are listed below along with a suggested list of yoga poses to demonstrate the benefits:
Increasing Flexibility
Improving flexibility of muscles is usually what athletes have in their minds when they consider taking a yoga class.  Many training methods cause tightening of the muscles which may be eased through regular yoga practice.  Cyclists often have tight quadriceps. Runners usually find stiffness through their hamstrings and calf muscles. Swimmers can find tension through their shoulders and arms. The relief and release they find through performing yoga poses helps to increase flexibility and in turn find more movement through the joints to assist performance.
Asana: Downward-Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana – Strengthens the arms and legs, stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves and hands. Calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and mild depression while energising the body. Can also relieve headaches, insomnia, back pain and fatigue. 
–          On all fours place your hands at shoulder width and your feet at hip distance.
–          Tuck your toes under, lift your hips up towards the sky as you straighten your legs and drop your heels down towards the ground.
–          Press down and forward with the hands, open up through the chest and shoulders.
–          Any lower back or hamstring issues please keep a bend through the knees.
Developing Strength
Although flexibility is often the drawcard to yoga, many participants are surprised by how effective yoga is in developing strength. Many dynamic forms of yoga including Power Yoga, Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga are well known to increase muscle strength and tone. Flowing through a fiery asana practice can lengthen and strengthen the entire body. Yoga can also include a range of poses that focus on isometric holds where even the most seasoned practitioner feels the burn.
Asana: Warrior II/Virabhadrasana II  – Builds strength in the shoulders, arms and back muscles. Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly and psoas. Strengthens and lengthens the thighs, calves and ankles.
–          From Downward Dog bring one foot forward and place it between the hands in a lunge position.
–          Front knee is in a deep bend and stacked directly over the front ankle.
–          Back foot is approximately on a 90 degree angle and back heel is anchored into the ground.
–          Lift the upper body, arms are outstretched, engaged and parallel to the ground with palms facing down.
–          Hips, shoulders and chest are open to the side with the gaze over the peace fingers of the front hand.
Reducing Injuries
‘Prehab’ vs ‘Rehab’. Unfortunately many people only turn to stretching and mobility work after they suffer an injury. Rather than being reactive to strains and pains encourage your clients to be proactive in regards to looking after their bodies. This carries through from warming up to cooling down, as well as specialised yoga or mobility sessions. Yoga poses can assist in building strong, supple muscles that are less prone to tear and strain.
Asana: Trikonasana/Triangle Pose – Stretches and strengthens the hips, groins, hamstrings and calves as well as the shoulders, chest and spine. Helps to reduce stress, improve digestion and stimulate the abdominal organs. 
–          From Warrior II straighten your front leg, hinge at the hips and reach forward with the front hand.
–          Pivot the front hand down to the ground on the inside of the front foot and lift the back hand straight up towards the sky.
–          If the front hand doesn’t reach the ground bring it to rest on your ankle or shin.
–          Turn the gaze up towards the sky, legs are straight but not locked out or hyper extended.
Improving Focus & Balance:
Professional athletes undoubtedly need to stay focused to reach training goals, higher levels and to achieve success at a competitive level.  Recreational athletes need just as much focus to find time to exercise amongst a busy lifestyle juggling work, family and responsibilities. Finding the discipline to keep their health as a top priority is a difficult task. The focus and determination needed to find balance in the yoga room can be translated off the mat into the ‘real’ world.  Yoga poses can be challenging, however it also teaches you to concentrate and stay centred and calm. Life lessons that an athlete can use to stay focused and balanced in other areas.
Asana: Tree Pose/Vrksasana – Strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles and spine. Stretches the groins and inner thighs, chest and shoulders.  Improves sense of balance.

–          From Triangle, unravel back to Warrior II and step forward, feet together at the top of the mat.
–          Shift weight into the standing leg and bend the knee to place the foot to the upper inner thigh or against the calf.
–          Never press against the knee joint, always keep the foot above or below.
–          Bring the hands to heart centre, find stillness and focus.
Repeat all yoga poses on the other side to create balance between both sides.
Incorporating gentle yoga poses in the warm up and cool down when working with clients will help to stretch their bodies, release tension and encourage awareness. If they would like to explore yoga as a regular method of cross training they can join a class at their local studio.
This article was published in the second edition of AusFitPro – a new magazine tailored to professionals in the fitness industry.  Kula Yoga Director Kacey Bennett has been appointed as the Mind, Body & Soul contributor for the magazine.
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Kula Corporate Yoga provides Melbourne workplaces with group yoga programs to build employee health, fitness and wellbeing. Kula Yoga offers staff a unique yoga experience to strengthen their minds and bodies. Find out more about our beneficial group yoga programs on our website www.kulayoga.com.au.