Plus, because yoga is about so much more than the body, it’ll teach you handy breathing techniques and how to focus and feel a bit more zen before a big challenge or race.
Weak hamstrings are the arch nemesis of runners, followed closely by sub-par core strength. Luckily, the poses you’ll hold in yoga can solve both of those issues by improving your balance and strength, and in turn super-charging your speed and endurance.
For cyclists, it’s all about leg strength, so it’d be smart to pick yoga poses that target this area, as well as the lower back and hip flexors, since you spend most of your time bent over your bike’s handlebars. If you’re already into yoga, you’ll know just how good Cat-Cow can feel after a long day in the saddle! New to the practice? Try starting off in a push-up position then slowly move into Upward-Facing Dog (your legs are stretched out behind you, knees and calves flush with the mat, and your arms support your torso). This will help improve strength in the upper back, shoulders and arms, and stretch the front of the body, from the hip flexors to the muscles in your upper chest.
Climbers will want to give their joints some attention, in particular the ones in their shoulders, hips and knees since they’re the ones doing most of the grafting. Try Chair pose while introducing a little movement in the arms – bring your elbows up to shoulder height, creating a 90-degree with your fingers pointing down, then switch so they’re facing down. And repeat.
Every athlete could benefit from a yoga session or two thanks to its focus on flexing and loosening the muscles. Not only will your enhanced flexibility and range of motion help make running, riding or climbing feel better, it’ll also help increase your stride and reach, making you more efficient. What’s not to like?
3. Injury Prevention
Look at yoga as the yin to your sport’s yang i.e. it’ll help relieve the muscle imbalances caused by running, cycling and climbing and allow you to discover different degrees of flexibility in parts of the body that don’t get worked as hard. Ultimately, by strengthening and flexing the whole of your body, you’ll reduce your risk of injury.
Try an Intense Front Body Stretch, which is a bit like the ‘crab’ maneuver you probably tried as a kid, but with your arms beneath your shoulders, not over your head, and your legs straight. As the name suggests it’ll stretch the front of your body but also strengthen your lower back, which is ideal for athletes who spend a chunk of time pushing themselves forward or gripping.
It may be strange to think that an exercise can energize you when sometimes post-workout all you want to do is go to sleep! But that’s another thing that makes yoga so unique. While lots of sports steal from your body’s energy stores, yoga oxygenates the blood and creates more energy, meaning mind and body feel more energetic. So, a post-run, cycle or climb session on the mat could be exactly what you need to recover.
5. And Breath…
Yoga can affect more than just your muscles and joints, it provides a workout of sorts for your whole cardiovascular, skeletal and, importantly for runners, cyclists and climbers, respiratory systems. Your internal organs will genuinely benefit from regular yoga practice.
For runners and cyclists in particular, lung capacity is key – the better it is, the more oxygen that’s circulated through your system, meaning you can run or ride harder for longer. Yogic breathing involves slow, deep inhalations and long exhalations that utilize the whole of your lungs, helping to increase lung capacity and overall performance. This mindful breathing can help with a climber’s steadiness and calm in stressful situations too.