Okay, so we know that each day, an increasing number of professional athletes of all sports are taking up yoga and including it in their regular fitness routine. The benefits of incorporating yoga into training go on and on, and are outside the scope of this article. Today, rather, we ask the question, “What if yoga is your passion?” Whether you see yoga as a sport, fitness routine, spiritual practice, self-care, of whatever, we’re exploring ways that sports can boost your yoga practice for a change! What else can you do to help you get the most out of your asanas? Here are 5 sports that strengthen your yoga practice.
1. Surfing & Upper Body Strength
While surfing, you will be constantly battling again the ocean’s tides. The consistent paddling motion will result in increased muscle tone overall, and especially a workout for your arms and shoulders. Build upper body strength while surfing and paddling to help you fly in crow pose (bakasana) and hold chaturanga dandasana for longer than a split-second flop to the ground (it’s a pose after all, not a transition!).
2. Swimming & Back Strength
Swimming in water takes the burden of the body off the joints since you’re weightless. Swimming can alleviate lower back issues as well as strengthen the back in general. Another benefit is the core will be strengthened as well. Enjoy a wider range of motion in back bends and more control in your practice in general. Handstand, here you come!
3. Volleyball & Core Strength
On the beach or on the court, all that spiking, digging, and blocking in the air engages the core and abdominal muscles in various ways as the body moves dynamically. Benefits of a strong and engaged core means better aligned handstands. You’ll have more control in inversions in general as you learn to keep your core engaged to lift and hold you up, instead of hoping somehow that you can kick up using momentum and then magically stop yourself when you’re vertical. It’s okay, we’re all there or we’ve all been there.
4. Gymnastics & Balance
We know how yoga helps gymnastics, but the reverse is true as well! Yogis with a background in gymnastics enjoy greater focus, balance, and flexibility when compared to yogis without a background in gymnastics (based solely on my personal observations and no actual scientific data). You can take up a gymnastics practice in the park or check out a gym that offers classes. You will be sure to experience added benefits to your practice in terms of your balance and focus in poses like ardha chandrasana (half moon pose) or virabhadrasana c (warrior III).
5. Running & Breathing
Running can have detrimental effects on your quads and hamstrings as far as yoga is concerned. You will get stronger legs but the side effects can negate these benefits if not practicing yoga regularly. Running can, however, benefit your practice by the effects it has on your breathing. When you’re running, you can focus on taking full, deep breaths into the belly, similar to an Ujjayi breath in yoga. Over time, your focus and stamina will increase as your breath gets stronger and more even, and this skill will translate over into your yoga practice. After all, if you’re not breathing smoothly and calmly in each pose (or consciously working towards it at the very least), you’re not doing yoga.