Sports activities are associated with intense physical and mental strain. Yoga for athletes helps relax the body and mind, enhance athletic performance, improve flexibility and concentration. Hatha Yoga is an excellent injury prevention and aids in rapid post-injury recovery.

Why Hatha Yoga Classes Are Good for Athletes

Regular yoga classes help to bring the body and mind into harmony, as the movements in yoga (if done correctly) do not lead to tension and imbalances in the body. The benefits of yoga for athletes are supported not only by ancient texts, but also by modern research.

Improved Range of Motion, Balance and Flexibility

Training (depending on the sport) involves regularly exercising certain muscle groups. Repetitive movements cause some muscles and tendons to become stronger, while other muscles may become weaker and shorter 1. Limited mobility can subsequently affect movement technique and increase the risk of injury. During yoga classes, the main muscle groups, ligaments, and tendons are alternately used, which expands the range of motion and improves flexibility 1234. In a 2016 study, 26 male athletes were divided into two groups. The first group practiced yoga twice a week and the second group only did the main sport. According to the results of the study, the first group showed significant improvements in balance and flexibility compared to the control group 5.

Strengthening Cortical Muscles

Many sports workouts more actively work the muscles of the front surface of the body – the pectoral muscles, abdominal muscles, biceps and quadriceps. At the same time, less attention is paid to the muscles of the back surface of the body. In yoga, the muscles of the back of the body, along with the front muscles, get involved in work. The muscles of the back, neck, shoulders, buttocks and calves become stronger, thus also strengthening the cortical muscles 2.

Yoga practices with an emphasis on mindful breathing promote stamina and awareness

Hatha yoga improves the respiratory system and oxygen supply to the blood, increasing endurance in athletes 67. Concentrating on the breath while holding asana helps train awareness, stability and strength 48. A 2017 study proved that regular mindfulness practice improves performance in athletes 9.

Yoga practices help prevent injuries and promote rapid post-traumatic recovery

Yoga improves blood circulation, oxygen supply to cells, relaxes muscles. All of this shortens recovery from injuries 10. According to research, people who supplement their workouts with yoga suffer less muscle pain. Amateur triathletes in the US are successfully using yoga-based rehabilitation programs. Yoga classes help them feel more centered and aware 8. With regular yoga practice, athletes are less likely to suffer injuries as they become more sensitive to exertion and better understand and recognize body signals: heart rate, breathing rate, sweating 8.

Yoga reduces stress and anxiety, increases confidence and self-esteem

Regular practice helps you feel and control your body better , resulting in better control over thoughts and emotions, even in stressful situations 148.

Which Asanas Are Best Suited for Athletes

The complex of asanas for athletes, aimed at working through the main muscle groups, as well as working with the breath and mind, can significantly improve sports performance and qualitatively restore the body after intensive training sessions.

Universal Asanas for Different Sports

Yoga for athletes improves overall body mobility, restores balance and symmetry by strengthening weakened muscles and relaxing overstressed ones. Universal asanas for athletes include:

  • Marjariasana — Cat pose improves spinal flexibility, relieves back pain and stiffness, relieves chronic neck pain, and eliminates lower back tightness.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana — Head-down dog pose strengthens the respiratory system, stretches and strengthens leg and back muscles well, and develops spinal flexibility. Asana helps relieve stiffness in the shins, hamstrings, shoulders, neck and wrists. It also improves circulation, rejuvenates brain cells, calms the mind and relieves stress.
  • Eka Pada Rajakapotasana — Pigeon pose loosens the hip joints, improves spinal flexibility, and stretches the hip muscles.
  • Virabhadrasana-2 — Warrior Pose-2 restores hip mobility, helps develop strength and endurance, improves coordination, and strengthens the muscles of the neck, shoulders, arms and legs.
  • Utthita Trikonasana — The stretched triangle pose relieves back and neck pain, stretches the spine, and improves thoracic mobility.
  • Paripurna Navasana — The boat pose develops the sense of balance and equilibrium, strengthens the muscles of the back, hips, abdominal press, forms correct posture.
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana — The half-bridge pose loosens and opens the thoracic region and improves the respiratory system.

Asanas That Will Help to Relax after an Intense Workout

Even a short relaxing asana complex will help to reduce painful sensations in the body, relieve physical and mental tension. The asanas below can be performed in combination or you can choose a few suitable poses to relieve excessive tension in a particular area:

  • Uttanasana — Intensive stretching posture stretches the spine, relieves tension in the neck and shoulders, improves blood circulation, eliminates stiffness in the spine and pelvis, and loosens the back of the legs.
  • Anjaneyasana — Anjana pose improves the nervous system, strengthens and stretches leg muscles, normalises blood circulation, trains the vestibular apparatus.
  • Balasana — Child’s pose relieves tension in the back and neck, relaxes the muscles in the legs, and eases fatigue in the muscles.
  • Prasarita Padottanasana — Intense stretching pose with legs wide apart stretches the back and inside of the legs, relieves back pain, improves blood circulation and develops the hip joints.
  • Ananda Balasana — The happy child's pose relieves back and lower back pain, stretches and strengthens the spine, and helps with stress.
  • Supta Baddha Konasana — The bound angle lying pose relieves leg fatigue, the muscles and ligaments of the legs become more elastic.
  • Supta Matsyendrasana — The lying down fish lord pose increases mobility of the hip joints, spine and sacrum, opens the chest and improves posture.
  • Viparita Karani improves blood circulation, strengthens arms, relieves leg tension, revitalizes the nervous system.
  • Shavasana — Corpse pose helps to relax the whole body, qualitatively recover from workouts.

Yoga practices can be done before or after a core workout, or as a stand-alone practice.

It is recommended to practice yoga 3-4 times a week to make steady progress, but athletes should intelligently supplement their schedule with yoga practices when the intensity of their core training is high. It is important to choose the number of yoga classes that is right for you, as each person’s practice will have individual differences.