Yoga: What it is why you should do it

Yoga: What it is why you should do it

YOGAYoga has been around for quite some time.  Ok, literally thousands of years.  Now, it is much more mainstream – in other words we can find and practice yoga everywhere.  I know I am biased, but I think it’s a beautiful thing.  I started practicing in college, and immediately recognized and respected how adding yoga enhanced my training, focus, sleep and overall well being. I became a Yoga Sport Coach™ to apply yoga to not only my training, but to also integrate yoga into programs for athletes I would be working with. I have worked with a gambit of athletes, from golfers, runners, football players, and softball players.  Yoga has proven its place in sport time and time again.  Even with yoga’s ever-growing popularity, there are still misconceptions and  an unfamiliarity with it.   No worries, let’s clear all of that.

What is yoga?
Yoga means unity.  The unity of your physical self with a consciousness of mind, body, maybe even soul.  How it is applied is up to you, the practitioner.  What do you want out of your practice? To be more flexible, stronger, have peace of mind, reduce pain, all of these things?  Your focus may even vary day by day.

I have been practicing yoga with athletes for a while now, and many coaches argue, “well it’s basically the same as us warming up and doing mobility.”  They have a point – but it’s still missing some pieces.  We will certainly work on mobility and flexibility, increasing blood flow and physical general preparedness, but practicing yoga helps you put the pieces of the puzzle together: maximizing your breathe, coordinating movement patterns, having awareness in space, etc.  Yoga ensures a mindfulness that is often left out of warm-ups or routine mobility work.

Stretching vs. yoga

One of the biggest misconceptions is that yoga is just stretching.  Indeed, we will work on flexibility, but it isn’t all we will do.  It is important to note here, there is a difference between flexibility and mobility.  Flexibility is being able to reach a range of motion, but mobility is being able to move through a range of motion.  The difference being that mobility not only requires flexibility, but strength and control within the joint capsule and muscles involved.

Sometimes when we’re lifting weights or throwing people around, fatigue sets in and we tend to ‘muscle through’ movements, or compensate in unhealthy ways.  Using yoga, we slow it down and use just body weight to expose some of those weaknesses and focus on them. By doing so we establish postural strength and stability, allowing our body to function more efficiently and create stronger, more fluid (and hopefully more powerful) movements.  We also improve balance and create a better sense of our position in space,  setting us up to better react to ‘the playing field’ or your opponent.

And we work on breathing.  Your body, focus and decision making is reflected by your breath.  Learning how to breathe efficiently is key in training and competition.  Maximizing lung capacity allows an athlete to train at a higher intensity levels for longer bouts of time because her oxygen uptake is more efficient.  Then, controlling your breath in high pressure situations allows for better decision making and focus.

You can’t be bad at yoga, seriously.  You learn every day and improve with every breath you take.  As long as you give a shit, you are doing great.

Are you interested?

Obviously I have peaked your interest with my seductive writing skills.  We have yoga practice every Saturday at 10 am, but wait there’s more!  This month we are hosting a Yoga for Athletes Workshop Sunday, April 17 at 1 pm. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about how to best fit yoga into your life and how to get started.

It has to be everyday that someone tells me, ‘I need to be doing that yoga.”  Well, here is your chance!  Our yoga classes and workshops are open to anyone and everyone, I hope to see you there.

Emily Kulakowski

CSCS, ACSM, Yoga Sport Coach™