Athletes

5 Sports to Strengthen your Yoga Practice

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.

 

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The Sochi Winter Olympics: Yoga Style!

With big-name American Olympians such as Jamie Anderson (slopestyle snowboarding) and Gracie Gold (figure skating) crediting yoga as a part of their training routine, the stretchy sport has gotten some attention this February. Today we pay homage to each Olympic event with a yoga pose of its own:

 

Alpine Skiing 

Alpine Skiing Olympics Sochi Yogatraveltree

Chair pose is a perfect way to get warmed up for downhill skiing.  Whether you’re into moguls or tackling technique on the super combined, chair is certain to get your quads fired up and your knees prepared for some action.

 

Biathlon 

Biathlon Sochi Olympics Yogatraveltree

Insert rifle and voilà!

 

Bobsled 

Bobsled sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Stretch out those hamstrings for a quick start and a long ride!

 

Cross-Country Skiing 

Cross Country Skiing sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Lateral lunges will get you ready, set, fired up for the skating portion of cross-country ski trails.

 

Curling

Curling sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Flexibility in this pose can help with the first element, or “delivery” of the stone, in curling.

 

Figure Skating 

Figure Skating sochi olympics yogatraveltree

The resemblance of this pose to the sport it represents is pretty clear! If you struggle with this on land, imagine how difficult it must be on a single blade while moving!

 

Freestyle Skiing 

Freestyle Skiing sochi olympics yogatraveltree

The name says it all!

 

Ice Hockey 

Hockey sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Hockey involves a lot of side-to-side movement. Extended side angle is a great way to warm up both the outside and inside of your legs - a perfect compliment to the physical demands of hockey.

 

Luge 

Luge sochi olympics yogatraveltree

It looks like you pretty much just lay there for this, but as we all know corpse pose (much like the luge) is more than “just laying there.”

 

Skeleton 

Skeleton sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Cowabunga! Get your back ready for a descent down icy slopes with this prone pose.

 

Ski Jumping 

Ski jumping sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Warrior III is the closest way to feel like you’re flying in the world of solo yoga poses.  It also requires poise and balance, much in the same way ski jumping does.

 

Snowboarding

snowboarding sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Since its addition to the Winter Olympics in 1998, snowboarding has ballooned into much more than one event.  Nonetheless, we can say for certain that those athletes have fun expressing themselves on their boards. So, to appreciate snowboarding with yoga, pick a pose that’s fun and acrobatic for you!

 

Speed Skating 

Speed skating sochi olympics yogatraveltree

Although not technically a yoga pose, Bowler’s lunge is a fun way to test balance and lateral stability.

 

...and if all else fails, just make sure you stick your landing:

landing olympics yogatraveltree

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Rachel Wiegand has been an athlete her whole life but yoga has been the only constant throughout moves and life changes. A former personal trainer, she is now a practicing chiropractor in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and enjoys helping patients find a physical activity that fits their lifestyle best. In addition to yoga, she practices Pilates and is an avid Crossfitter. On her weekends you can find her teaching yoga at CrossFit Sheboygan, with her hubby at Lake Michigan on her paddleboard, or at the dog park with her boxer, Dug.