As an athlete it is so important to stretch…I mean REALLY stretch. One of the best things I did for my training as a figure skater was taking up yoga.
After a few muscle pull injuries leaving me in extreme pain and inability to train for up to two weeks, something competitive skaters cannot afford, I decided to study yoga.
Yoga is great for athletes because it relaxes the entire body and releases tension in the muscles and joints. This makes the body stronger, leaner, elongates the muscles and creates a suppleness that allows for free flowing movement without strain. The more you practice the better you become as with any discipline. Yoga teaches you how to breathe and release stresses of all kinds. Too often athletes neglect this important aspect of fitness working their muscles to fatigue, not stretching enough leading to tight muscles that pull at the joints and cause imbalance and eventually weakening the structure causing injury.
There are so many other benefits to practicing yoga than just physical, for example, the meditative state that can be achieved through this discipline allows for a quieting of the mind, focus and one pointedness, a very important factor in competition…controlling the mind with all its unstoppable flurry thoughts. The best competitors have the ability to focus intensely on the moment, their program, being still within and having clarity, this is enhanced by yoga. Another example is learning how to breathe deeply and fully. It is surprising that so many people walk on the earth and do not know how to breathe properly, taking shallow breathes. Breathe brings us to our centre, oxygenates the blood strengthens the lungs, calms the mind and relaxes the tension in the body.
Yoga makes you feel good, it is energizing, relaxing, and connects your spirit with your body. I believe the practice of yoga benefits any serious athlete and acts as a buffer against injury. The more flexible we are in life the happier we are, the more we can accomplish and the less prone we are to injury.
If you decide to take up yoga as cross training find a good teacher and a style you feel drawn to. I suggest for beginners to start with Hatha, it is the base of all yoga and is a great place to learn the fundamentals. Be patient with yourself and relax because this is one arena (no pun intended ; ) ) where competition is left at the door. Yoga is yummy, it is an exploration of your body’s limits and a gentle push to expand and grow from limits to unlimited potential. Depending on where your body is holding tension it may hurt at times…remember growth hurts when you resist change. Accepting where you are at in the moment and allowing life to flow through you will ease the pain of the areas you hold tension in the body. Breathe the pain out and be gentle with yourself.
Not only will yoga practice help your skating it will help all aspects of your life at the same time. Does it get any better than that?
Until next time… happy training!
Copyright- Anica Brandt 2011
Anica is a trainer and nutrition specialist focused on high-energy super-foods and vegan raw food diets for competitive athletes.