I'm here to change your mind about yoga. It's not just for the uber flexible. Those who may reap the most benefit from the practice are often not your typical 'yogi', and not surprisingly, also those who need it the most. Take a look at some of the benefits and reasons why, if you consider yourself an athlete, yoga might be just the thing for you.
What we really need to consider is what happens when we're on a bike for an extended period of time and how can we counteract those effects, as well as how we can improve our physiology to increase power through the pedals:
Stronger core- Important for power, posture and injury prevention. Many cyclists have strong low backs and weak abdominals. Even with those strong backs, muscular imbalances in the anterior core can create a range of low back problems.
Back- We're sitting in the saddle for hours with an excessive lumbar kyphosis (what the what?! basically an over-rounded low back). All that torque in the low spine will effect a lot, but for our intents and purposes here: hips, glutes and hamstrings.
Legs- Hamstrings are never fully lengthened in cycling; what does this mean? They're essentially more susceptible to tears and strains. And quads- our powerhouse! Lots of love goes into the lateral quads- thats those outer guys, but often times the medial (inner) quads are neglected.
Knees- Here's a spot where injuries are way common, surprise, often due to imbalances of strength in the quads.
Running: One of the most natural things our bodies can do. It gets a bad rap because it can, and often does, lead to injury because of it's repetitive nature. Any musculoskeletar imbalances are magnified tenfold when done over thousands and thousands of strides.
Balance & Symmetry- Running works on a single plane- forward and backward. It really only engages the lower half of our body consistently. So what happens to all of the other bits and pieces of us? Regardless of how fast or strong their legs appear, watch them in any balance posture. These postures that utilize all parts of the muscles and their componant parts don't tend get engaged or strengthened with only running.
Core- There's that cheeky core again! Strengthening the midsection will help to improve posture, allow arms and legs to move more efficiently, with better form, less fatigue, create less weight impact on the legs which will all lead to reduced injuries (yay!).
Strettttcchhhh- Obvs. Tight muscles = decreased range of motion in joints = injuries. Loose, supple muscles = increased range of motion throughout the joints = greater ease of movement = :)
Athlete is an awfully broad term I'm using here, but I think we can all agree that the goals of athletic people are very similar, regardless of what type of athletic endeavor they are engaged in.
A supple muscle is a healthy muscle - Stretch and lengthen those shortened muscles to increase range of motion, help with connective tissue and blood flow, reduce the risk of developing injuries. Especially for those who's activities tend to have them gaining muscle mass, tightness is a common side effect as the muscles are always being stressed into their contracted states.
Comprehensive- Yoga engages both major and minor muscle groups through much broader ranges of motion so that they can synergistically work together. Postures require a lot of focus and completely body engagement so that through yoga, we create balance, stabilization, strength and flexibility.
Identify weak spots- Even the most basic postures in a yoga class require both big and small muscle groups, many times engaging those underworked muscles so that we can identify those places of underdevelopment and bring attention to where we need work (prior to that first injury!).
Improved Breathing- Any athletic activity will require a level of cardiovascular fitness; lung capacity is essential to improving performance. Using even breathing patterns and learning to breath into the base of the lungs, rather than just the top, is shown to increase lung capacity. More lung capacity.. increased endurance.. better overall performance. Ta Da!