Did you know that yoga is an incredible, natural complement to other workouts? Now more than ever, there's just about a yoga for everyone. Yoga for marathoners! Yoga for crossfitters! Yoga for badminton players! Yoga can offer many physical benefits, such as strengthening of abdominals to protect the lower back, loosening of tight hip flexors, shoulders, hamstrings, and righting imbalances in the body. While these physical benefits are great, CoachUp wants discuss several ways in which the principles of yoga can help mentality during before a big game or race.
Spoiler alert -- this one is the biggie! Drop into almost any yoga class and *inhale, exhale* will be two of the teacher’s most often used words. For intense cardio workouts, smooth, deep breathing is crucial for delivering oxygen to the body. In order to function properly, our muscles require energy, which is gained through the consumption of oxygen. Breathing allows our bodies to intake oxygen and convert blood sugars into muscle-feeding energy known as ATP.
Just like any other muscle that isn't flexible, tightness in the muscles between our ribs can limit our breathing into just the top third of the lungs. Learning to breathe from the diaphragm causes the abdomen to expand and the breath to deepen. Practicing yoga, pilates, or breathing exercises can all help you breathe from your diaphragm. Just as we learn to breathe with intention during an upbeat Vinyasa session or an intense half-pigeon pose, taking these breathing techniques on the road will help fill your lungs with full, revitalizing breaths of oxygen.
As we practice yoga, and particularly during tricky balancing poses, it's helpful to gently focus our eyes on a single, unmoving point. This technique, called setting one’s drishti, allows other distractions to fall away and helps us become stable and balanced. As David Life explains: “when you restrict your visual focus to one point, your attention isn’t dragged from object to object. In addition, without these distractions, it’s much easier for you to notice the internal wanderings of your attention and maintain balance in mind as well as body.”
During tough races or competitions, it's easy to let yourself dwell on the past -- worrying if your transition times are fast enough, or if the score is insurmountable, etc. Yet, it's also extremely easy to find yourself simultaneously dreading what is to come -- from "If my knee hurts this badly now, how am I ever going to make it another four miles?" to "When will this hell be over?!" Instead, it's important to realize that you ended up in this race or game as a result of many hours of training and your desire to accomplish something you may have thought impossible.
At the end of the day, it boils down to this: by dwelling on things you can’t control, you miss the whole experience of being in the present. By embracing, rather than avoiding, what is presently happening, you will find more fulfillment and enjoyment in your athletic endeavors.
(Related: Learn about the proper way to breathe during yoga here.)
During your next workout, as your legs are shaking, your breath is short, and you’re about to give up, relax your shoulders and the muscles of your face. Stand tall and set your gaze softly on a point in front of you, taking long inhales from the very bottom of your belly. Don’t think about the miles that lie behind you or before you, but let your attention rest on each breath. Thank yourself for doing something good for your body. And know that, eventually, you’ll reach your finish line whatever that may be.
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones in the studio.
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