by Deborah Metzger
The Courier News and Home News Tribune, April 6, 2010
I’m amazed by professional athletes. To get where they are, these men and women endure intense training to participate in a sport at such a high level. This got me thinking about what athletes must do to give themselves an edge and make themselves be the ones to beat.
You don’t have to be a competitive athlete to understand that enhancing your physical and mental well-being can help improve your athletic performance. Whatever your sport, yoga can offer you remarkable benefits, including:
- Proper breathing: Relaxed breathing is the foundation of yoga and sport. Imagine running a race and having tense, shallow breathing. Just thinking of it makes me feel anxious. Proper breathing can bring more oxygen to the blood and brain and help you remain focused on the task at hand. Yet many of us don’t know how to do it properly.
- Focus: Yoga requires concentration as you move in and out of specific postures, breathe in specific ways and hold postures for a length of time. You really don’t have time to think of anything else. The improved concentration and breath awareness of yoga improves focus and mental endurance.
- Improved balance: Balance is an important part of coordination and grace in athletics and life. Yoga offers many balancing poses — anything from “tree pose” to “eagle pose” — that help you feel your own balance and compel you to focus on your body to get there.
- Enhanced core strength: In yoga, it is important to have a solid foundation, or core, to help you get into poses, hold them and get out of them without injury. The core strength you build doing this boosts your overall strength and athletic performance.
- Increased flexibility and range of motion: No, you don’t have to be a contortionist to practice yoga, nor will you turn into one by practicing yoga. It is important to stretch your muscles (and joints) as you strengthen them, and yoga does this.
- Learn about your body: Many of us need to learn to listen to our bodies and understand where there is tightness and tension, where there isn’t, where our limits are and how we feel when we do certain things. Yoga asks you to explore and understand your body while you practice.
- Injury recovery: Yoga increases circulation, which helps with your body’s overall health and mobility. But the best thing about yoga? There is a style and intensity for everyone.
Deborah Metzger is the founder and director of the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health, 50 Vreeland Drive in the Skillman section of Montgomery. More information is available by visiting www.princetonyoga.com, or Jeff Weber’s Heartbeats blog or his twitter page.