Yoga for Athletes

Wait.. What do we mean by ‘yoga for athletes’? Although it may seem strange to read that title (after all, yogis ARE athletes), there still somewhat of a disconnect between the practice of yoga and traditional training programs that are used by athletes in a wider variety of sports. From athletes that train and compete in running, cycling, swimming, and even boxing — there are numerous and invaluable benefits from including yoga as part of a regular training program.

yoga athlete runner

Again, although you won’t need to tell a seasoned yogi, but the reality is that yoga builds physical strength in a unique way. If yoga isn’t part of your workout schedule yet, you may be focused on building strength through other approaches — perhaps through weight training? Although weight training and weight lifting is effective at engaging your muscles, putting your body through repetitive and stressful sequences also tends to cause muscular injury — this is why most trainers recommend putting caps on your workouts. Yoga is advantageous because it builds lean, flexible muscles. How is this different? Although yoga develops muscles more slowly, through the varied and dynamic poses taught by yoga, muscles are built to support a larger variety of movement more easily. This means yogis build muscles that are more flexible in more positions, have higher stamina and recover from injury more quickly — all desirable traits for any serious athlete.

Of course yoga also improves balance and control (key to many sports like wresting, and skiing or snowboarding). By moving through a variety of positions and holding poses as long as possible, balance is improved in a natural way. Even if balance is something an athlete already has, it’s important to remember that yoga is also as progressive a challenge as any. No one is a perfect yogi, and you can always push yourself further in yoga — whether it be through a new position or a variant on an existing position, or by providing extra challenge using yoga blocks. While we’re talking about holding poses, it’s also valuable to remember that understanding how your breathing impacts your fitness through yoga can go a long way (figuratively and literally) in other sports as well. Efficient breathing allows you to utilize your respiratory system to maximize your oxygen and reduce fatigue (increasing endurance).

The meditative qualities associated with yoga are also extremely beneficial. Particularly for team sports, where pressure can come from all angles, mental clarity and control that can only truly be realized through an understanding of your own mind through meditation can give athletes an edge and ensure they perform at the highest level possible. One of the reasons we find yoga so beneficial (and addictive) is that it forces us to isolate ourselves with our bodies and constantly understand where our energy is directed. Yoga classes are great for this — having an instructor talk you through poses and encourage doing so with a clear mind often leads to yogis focusing on their practice in ways that they didn’t know were possible previously. On the most professional level, sports like cycling are often called mental pursuits, as the separating factor between the good and the great athletes often come down to a defined ability to focus on a clear goal and coordinate with your body to achieve it.

Flexibility, balance and mental clarity — all benefits your body can realize through yoga. The bottom line? Yoga provides stretching and movement you don’t get in any other sport, and the benefits of yoga can help push you forward in every aspect of your physical activity.

Keep moving, Be.. A Yogi!


Do you show up?

They say, no matter what you do, the most important thing is to “show up” while doing it. But what does it really mean to “show up?”


When I first came across this notion, as a good yogi, and a student of life, I attempted to decode it. Decode it, of course, based on my personal experiences, and life lessons so far. And this is how I see it – to show up, means to not hide or camouflage what you feel. It means to be able to deal, to breathe through whatever emotions rise up.

Very often, as we go through the day, we automatically turn on our autopilot, and run through the day without truly acknowledging our emotions, or how we feel in our body as those emotions find a hiding place in our subconscious mind. The thing is, our mind is so smart – it figured out the way to hide the emotions, without us, sometimes even noticing them. We blame it on our appetite, or slow metabolism, or the lack of sleep – when we reach out for a cupcake, or a cup of coffee. While, there’s nothing wrong with the delicious cupcakes or blissfully aromatic coffee, when it’s being consumed consciously. However, very often these little indulgences serve our body as the camouflaging tools, trying to distract us from an uncomfortable situation that happened earlier that day.

The critical part here is not to feel bad about giving in to the enticement, but to ask yourself what exactly was happening in your body before your hands reached out for another piece of chocolate.

Yoga teaches us to stay in the moment. It teaches us non-attachment. It guides us towards equanimity, and emotional balance. You’ve probably heard it numerous times.

You also know that yoga poses you like the least, are the ones you need the most. This is because those poses push you out of your comfort zone. Those poses trigger uncomfortable emotions. And, guess what, last time I checked, they do not serve coffee or cupcakes during yoga classes. Very often (especially if you practice Bikram Yoga) you will hear your yoga teacher saying to stay away from the water – because this is a convenience (almost justified) distraction your mind can find, to get your body away from allowing those emotions to stir up.

Allow yourself to co-exist with your emotions – this is exactly how you begin to learn to show up. By breathing through those uncomfortable poses on your yoga mat. By learning to “feel” those emotions, and by trying to watch them, you prepare yourself for the sticky situations off the mat.

It’s all yoga. You know it – the most difficult type of yoga is yoga off the mat (in your daily life). And guess what, we all are lighthouses. And just like Marianne Williamson said it: by shining your own light, however bright or deemed you think it is – you unconsciously give permission to others to do the same.

The only way to it is through it.

Namaste. Keep Moving. Be… bright.