How Yoga Can Improve Your Active Lifestyle

5 ways that practicing yoga can benefit athletes

Athletes and people who lead an active lifestyle are no strangers to muscle tension and soreness — especially if that lifestyle includes kayaking, climbing, biking, or running. While these recreational activities will keep you fit in their own right, supplementing your current hobbies with yoga can yield a wide range of benefits. By practicing yoga, you’re not only reducing your risk of injury by keeping your muscles and joints limber, you can also improve your performance as a runner, paddler, biker, or even weight lifter.

To help you reap the rewards of yoga, we’ve developed a number of yoga workshops at Asheville Yoga Center specifically for those with active interests. A couple of examples include our three-hour Yoga for Paddlers workshop hosted by renowned kayaker Anna Levesque, who instructs on proper alignment and poses to target the muscles used (and underused) in paddle sports. Another is a four-week Yoga for Runners series, where AYC instructor Sierra Hollister uses yoga to restore symmetry and increase flexibility to help runners improve their performance.

We won’t go into a long-winded explanation of ALL the benefits of yoga (spoiler: there are a lot), but here are four of our favorite ways that yoga can help people who love to live an active life.

Increased Flexibility

If you’re an avid runner or athlete, it’s no secret that you can reduce your risk of injury through stretching. But by adding Yin yoga to your weekly routine, you’ll bring mobility and increased flexibility to all of your muscles. Yin yoga involves holding passive floor poses for extended periods of time to reap the maximum benefits of the position. Poses can be held for up to 5 minutes, sometimes longer, and the poses focus on the connective tissues of the body. This provides balance to the muscles underused in your active lifestyle, and supports the health of the muscles you’re activating during your running or paddling.

Improved Recovery Time

In yoga, much emphasis is placed on the breath: as you move through each position, you take long, deep breaths to send oxygen-rich blood flowing to all corners of your body. These breathing techniques can help maintain muscle elasticity and improve the recovery time of your sore or injured muscles. The stretches you receive through yoga practice also expedite recovery time: as you gently stretch your muscles during your yoga practice, you allow them to relax and reduce inflammation where it’s present.

Muscle Gains

Virtually any style of yoga will offer increased strength when practiced regularly, but by adding POWER to your yoga you can really tone your body from head to toes. “Power” yoga is largely inspired by Ashtanga yoga, a style that incorporates synchronized breathing with each movement to produce flowing patterns of motion and energy. Power flows are often considered the “athletic” style of yoga, as the rigorous vinyasa flow stokes an inner fire to burn calories and build strength. By incorporating a weekly power flow yoga class, you’ll more than likely find that your performance in running, kayaking, climbing, or other active hobby improves significantly. Not to mention the value of building up the muscles you don’t use as often.

Reduced Tension

Yoga offers an opportunity to quiet the mind and listen to the body as you gently move through stretches and poses. By engaging with your muscles in a new way — whether it’s through sun salutations or gentle restorative yin yoga — you’ll be able to feel the corners of your body that have been holding tension. The more you practice, the more in-tune with your body you’ll become, and the easier it will be to notice where you hold tension and how to reverse the chronic fatigue and soreness you experience from running, paddling, climbing, etc.

Improved Endurance

Yoga teaches you to better utilize your breath, which in turn allows your body to more effectively use oxygen. This alone is a key component to improved endurance, because the body uses oxygen to produce energy during exercise. By focusing on the breath during active or restorative yoga practice, you are conditioning your lungs and respiratory systems for aerobic sports such as running or paddling. In addition to this, yoga breathing creates space in the body, allowing more space for oxygen-rich blood to flow.

So what are you waiting for? Even if you only have 20 minutes a day to dedicate to your yoga practice, make it happen. If you’re new to yoga and need instruction, Asheville Yoga Center offers a variety of beginner-friendly yoga classes every day.