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Yoga helps stretch tired back muscles after golfing.
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images
As an athlete it's important to challenge your body in different ways to keep you on top of your game and at peak performance. Whatever your sport, practicing yoga poses will help you work on balance, stretch the muscle groups you use the most and will help you build strength. And, by adding yoga into your workout schedule, you can increase your overall endurance level and reduce your risk for injury.
Upper Body Strength
Upper body strength is important for many different sports, such as swimming, basketball, golf, volleyball, martial arts and climbing. Yoga can help you build and maintain the upper body strength needed for these sports. Poses such as upward plank, downward plank, downward dog and warrior II will help strengthen your shoulder joints, biceps, triceps and deltoids.
Lower Body Strength
For sports such as running, basketball, volleyball, kickboxing and skiing that require strong muscles in your lower body, yoga poses can be used to supplement your traditional lower body strength training. Many of the standing poses in yoga focus on building strength and creating dynamic tension in the legs. For example, warrior I and II, reverse warrior, triangle, pyramid, bound angle and low lunge are poses that will strengthen your quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors.
Having good balance is important in most sports and it's a key component in sports such as skiing, snowboarding, surfing, gymnastics, swimming and golfing. Balance poses in yoga can help you work on improving your balance for these sports. Tree, standing pigeon and warrior III are three basic balance poses to start with. As you hold these balance poses, you'll focus on establishing a strong control of your breath by rhythmically breathing in and out through your nose. Breath control and rhythmic breathing are important components in endurance sports such as marathon running, cycling and swimming.
Stretching and Flexibility
In any sport, you can use yoga to help stretch tired muscles and improve your range of motion and flexibility. Poses such as forward fold, downward dog and pyramid will stretch your low back, quads, calves and hamstrings; and these poses help increase the flexibility in your hips. Stretching and strengthening muscles in your legs and feet through yoga helps prevent injuries, such as shin splints. To stretch your hip flexors, do poses such as seated butterfly, reclining butterfly, upside-down pigeon and bridge. Upside-down pigeon also stretches your glutes, and bridge stretches your glutes, hamstrings and lower back.
No matter what sport you're involved in, the opening and closing meditation and relaxation poses in a yoga session will help you master your mental game. Yoga improves concentration and visualization -- two key attributes needed to master any sport. If you don't have time to regularly engage in a full yoga session, use yoga poses that focus on the areas most important for your sport. Some disciplines of yoga have pose sequences designed for individual sports. Under the guidance of a yoga instructor, you can work through a sequence of poses that will meet the specific needs and physical demands of your sport.