Yoga for Athletes: Get the Edge You Need by Lessening Strain

Athletes like to push hard and test their limits. Sometimes the best path to peak performance is actually by relaxing. Yoga can be an excellent tool for releasing and finding that performance.

To be faster, farther, harder, stronger, or the best can often lead to a path of honing our every thought, decision, and action. To place this much attention to detail is commendable, as long as it is not the only governing force by which we live life. For those of you really wanting to get the upper hand and performance edge on your athletic prowess, think about this: less effort can lead to more effectiveness.

For many of us athletes, the very reason we love our activity is that it lessens our burdens from life, decreases our responsiveness to emotions, or has us feel confident. We are ambitious and driven. We love to sweat out the small stuff. We love to feel connected to our primal selves and overcome primal fears. We pump adrenaline and use it as fuel for freedom from fight, flight, freeze, and dissociation. Ultimately, we use it to activate us into appropriate and controlled responsiveness.

Yoga can be a valuable tool to assist in recovery, injury prevention, rehabilitation, mental preparation, and lessening the strains from athletic endeavors. Specific systems of yoga (e.g. Forrest yoga) can be a remedy for modern day maladies as well as teach us that resistance and effort can create more stress and tension in the body.

Though this release of tension can be achieved when lessening the amount of exertion in yoga shapes and positions, educate yourself to know what type of yoga will enhance your desired outcomes. Faster, farther, harder, stronger, or the best can actually decrease one’s abilities in yoga. To exert too much can put too much strain on the muscles and create tensing when trying to decrease the tension. The result: a stalemate or limited progression.

To grow can also mean letting go of “doing” the yoga. Let go of clear objectives or outcomes and just let yourself ease into each shape intended to stretch or wring out tensed muscles. Consider it muscular and mental rinsing.

Why we appreciate yoga:

  • Provides a structured approach to strengthen weak muscles.
  • Teaches breathing techniques to increase oxygen saturation in muscles, flushes out CO2.
  • Surfaces unresolved problems, old patterns, and provides tools to change them.

Why we appreciate athletics:

  • Running or fast paced movement masticates old emotions and turns chemicals into energy.
  • What we felt as negative emotions and stress literally gets burned up.

You, the athlete, also know that to relax and find ease during performance means your body increases responsiveness to changing stressors and conditions. You can move with grace while being the animal athlete you so desire.

Yoga Tip

Find a basic Forrest yoga class in your area and practice “real-easing” in the pose. What you will find can be the greatest performance advantage over your mind and your competitors.

You can also email me at [email protected] to have your question about your physical or mental limitations answered in my Dear Willow column. There, I can provide you with strategies to support your next event.

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