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Our lovely Kula instructor Emily is back with more insight on why athletes should use yoga in their training.
As a yoga teacher who has a history of hamstring injury (of the ischial tuberosity), for me the best combination is yoga and weight training for recovery and maintenance. My experience and awareness in yoga has taught me how to isolate, activate and inhibit particular muscle groups, so when I go to the gym I am able to target the very specific muscle groups in the legs and glutes that support the injured ischial tuberosity which has totally boosted my recovery. So how can cross-training with yoga benefit all athletes?

Cross-training  builds strength in under-utilised muscles

Most cross-training works on a similar plane (e.g. squats, bench presses, bicep curls, crunches, etc are all sagittal). Yoga consists of multi-planar movements, and hence is good for surprising the under-activated muscles in the body and asking the most used ones to take a different approach to movement. This particularly builds strength and improves lean muscle mass – especially in the under-utilised muscles in your chosen discipline. As a result core body stability is enhanced and overuse injury is more preventable as you are strengthening the supportive but otherwise under-developed muscles that surround the more utilised muscles, creating a more balanced and optimally functional overall strength.

You’ll attain more mental control

“What does this have to do with athletic performance? Everything. When you look at the highest levels of sport, all the athletes are incredibly talented. They all train equally hard. So what distinguishes the Olympic champion from the also-ran? The mind.” [Rich Roll] The physical benefits of yoga for athletes are innumerable, but for some it is the mental benefits that are the greatest weapon. It must be considered whether you are a competitor or train simply for the betterment of your health, mental control and stamina are pivotal. Essentially in competitive sports, the athlete who wins typically goes in knowing that he/she is going to win. They are laser focused and their mind is not restrained by fear and negative thought patterns. Their mind is able to handle extreme stress messages from the body and even pain.
Athletes should never skip Savasana or meditation. It is in this time that some of your greatest mental and physical discipline and stamina can be achieved. These activities improve your ability to calm, quieten and control the impulses of the mind. Frequently it is not the body that lets us down in competition/training, it is the mind. Behind the chatter and impulses of the mind is a world of untapped potential and strength beyond your apparent capabilities.
About the author Emily Thomas: Ever since her first yoga teacher claimed that all such high intensity activities were ‘bad’ for the body and having a strong reaction to this notion, Emily has had a particular interest in the balance that yoga can bring to those who practice other enjoy both as part of a healthy lifestyle. Like many at Kula, she is a yoga teacher who enjoys weight training and cycling as complements to yoga.
Catch Emily at Kula’s “Yoga For Athletes” workshop on Saturday May 23, 1-3 p.m. More info and to book online see https://kulayoga.com.au/workshops.