How can yoga help my sports?
Good question for athletes to ask. And very important to performance. Yoga helps an athlete on a many physical and mental levels and bridges the gap between the two.
If we start with the physical body, we look at all parts from a cellular level. In other words, everything in the body breaks down to individual cells that breathe, are nourished, discharge, and need to rejuvinate until the end of their life, 28 days later.
We have billions of cells in the body. This cell, is the basis of all tissue, bones, muscles, fluids. The cells of the body are nourished by the blood flow, the rivers of life in the body, that bring nutrients and oxygen and take away the trash and carbon dioxide. Oxygen is the life force that supports these cells besides nutrients that we eat. The higher our oxygen levels in the blood flow, the more our cells can recharge. The cells literally gobble up oxygen. Generally, most people are starved for oxygen (and water, most of us are chronically dehydrated… H2O…..water is made up of oxygen) in our societies, lung problems like asthma are considered normal, our houses are cold and wet at least 3 months a year. We are never taught how to breathe. Was anyone out there taught how to breathe properly through your nose?
Lack of oxygen in the body leads to disease on every level. Oxygen is what supports the healing abilities of the circulatory, respiratory and endocrine systems. Oxygen is the most important ingrediant for tissue renewal.
On a cellular level, yoga helps athletes by increasing the bodies ability to feed the cells. By stretching the heart and lungs, we increase their size, then by using breathing techniques, we increase lung capacity which affects performance. We increase the blood flow by increasing the heart rate, (remember, heart is stretched too so it gains in capacity as well) by going into dynamic postures, called asanas, that require strength and determintion to hold. The heart rate can double in some postures in 10 seconds. Yoga trains the heart rate to come down just as quickly, by slowing the breath on the exhale.
Circulation is moved in yoga by movement, inversions, increasing the heart rate, and applying the “tournequet effect, essentially creating a dam of the blood flow and opeing the dam to surge into areas with extra power and thus extra healing power. We do this all over the body in a yoga practice. Asanas will target different areas.
Asanas stretch the body by using the body to traction itself. This takes a combination of strength and flexibility. Those two go hand in hand as a practioner gains in flexibility, they will also gain strength. Asanas stretch and open tight, frozen, and stiff areas in the body like joints, muscles, and fascia tissues. If the circulation can get in with the movements, it can bring healing cells and oxygen. The body will increase it’s oxygen level in the body as there is more circulation to more areas. We increase our life force, our prana, our chi.
As an athlete, studying pranayama in yoga has enormous benefits on lung control, knowing how the breath affects the body, deep breathing with pelvic floor turned on or off, lifting energy, grounding energy, all through the use of breath, prana. The benefits of having this awareness and ability to use the respiratory, circulatory systems and prana systems at their peak is a huge advantage. . To understand the practice of pranayama is a tremendous edge over other competotors as well as a way to live a better life.