The Benefits of Yoga for Athletes

You guys are in luck today!  I’m thrilled to announce that today’s guest blog comes from Goldie Kaufenburg.  I had the pleasure of meeting Goldie at a Lulu Lemon event in Boston over the summer and I’ve attended a few of her yoga classes since then.  Her Hip Hop Yoga classes are famous in Boston, as she teaches at Back Bay Yoga as well as Sweat & Soul.  

Goldie studied Psychology at the University of Florida and lead group and one-on-one therapy sessions as a Mental Health Counselor.  As she pursued her career in medicine she found yoga.  She has completed a 200+ certification as an instructor and is working trward a 500 hour certification.  To read more about Goldie and find out when she’s teaching near you, check out her site HERE.

 

Not that this article is targeted towards men, but one of the first things a guy says when you mention yoga is, “ I’m so inflexible!” Honestly, guys and gals, yoga is not just about being flexible. Yes, that is one byproduct of asana (posture or physical practice) but it’s not the one and only. There are many layers involved in why one practices yoga, and the benefits each individual derives from the ancient practice dating back over 5000 years ago. I could write at length about my viewpoints on why yoga is so incredibly beneficial, but instead, I will hone in on why yoga is valuable for athletes and weight lifters alike.

Skeletal muscle is made up of bundles of muscle fibers called myocytes, which is just a silly word for muscle cells. Within each muscle cell there are strands of proteins that connect to each other and pull, thereby shortening the muscle and causing it to contract.

Then there are something called slow twitch muscles and fast twitch muscles. Slow twitch muscles are more efficient as using oxygen to generate ATP, or “energy” for an extended amount of time when muscles are contracting. These muscles are in use for marathon runners and/or allowing yogis to practice yoga for a 90-minute yoga class or even a three-hour workshop. Fast twitch muscles on the other hand use anaerobic metabolism to create energy or fuel for the body, and are put to use when needing short bursts of strength or energy. These muscle fibers are used for weight lifters or sprinters, for example. Now that we understand what a muscle is actually composed of and how they react to activity, we are able to discuss why yoga is advantageous to any athlete or weight lifter.

The keep it short, sweet, and not boring, (let’s be honest- we all want to get off our computers and outside or to a yoga class, right?) We have all lifted weights at one point or another, and if you haven’t, heavy groceries or moving boxes counts, and we have all done some stretching or made our way into a yoga class. These types of movements make our bodies feel different depending on which form of exercise we choose. When lifting weights, our muscles contract, fill up with blood, and we often times feel “pumped.” The reason this happens is because lifting weights causes microscopic tears to form in the fiber and connective tissue of muscles, and these tears fatigue the muscles and also lead to the rebuilt muscle to increase in size, strength, and muscle capability. Over time, this constant contraction of muscles and the microscopic “damage” it’s causing your muscle causes tightness and can lead to injuries.  This is where the yoga or stretching comes in.

Yoga lengthens muscles, increases flexibility, gives service to bruised muscles, eliminates toxins, and also teaches us how to breathe with less effort, less force, and more ease. As many of us athletes and weight lifters know, stretching is normally the last thing that’s on the agenda when you’re at the gym, and before you know it you’re distracted and hungry and ready to leave without having stretched. Adding yoga to your weekly routine is beneficial in that not only will your muscles thank you, but you can also apply some of the knowledge you learn on the mat, and bring it into the gym. For example, some lifting techniques promote inappropriate flexibility and range of motion (ROM) around joints that need stability, such as squatting with hyper mobile lumbar spine or overhead lifting with hyper mobile shoulders. These are very dangerous if done the wrong way because of being misinformed or uninformed. No one says you have to stop weight lifting altogether, just sprinkle some lengthening love into your life in the form of yoga!  My advice; add a few yoga classes to your weekly routine. The body awareness and knowledge you can gain on the mat can be applied off the mat and in the gym.

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Carolyn
    1010 days ago

    Great article. I am not flexible, right now..partly because I have let my yoga practice slack. When you do it regularly the muscles get stretched and more flexible overtime.

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