Yoga and the Mental Benefits for Athletes

 

Athletes are continuing to discover the benefits of yoga beyond its ability to make them flexible. From pre-workout activation to post-workout stretching, it aids in improving balance and helps to strengthen and stabilize the body. Moreover, it lengthens the muscles after a grueling workout to support recovery. Given the plethora of benefits, many have been drawn to the practice to boost their athletic performance. However, the physical advantages of practicing yoga are only one part of the exercise, as it is also very instrumental in improving an athlete’s mental game. Today we'll be looking at the different mental benefits of yoga for athletes, and why you should start practicing straight away.

 

Curbs anxiety and mental fatigue

 

Competitive athletes usually perform in high-pressure environments. The anxiety to perform well is a constant fear for them, especially for professionals whose stakes involve money and reputation. Too much pressure could lead to mental fatigue or worse, burnout. The Institute of Yoga Sport Science® advocates sports-specific yoga in helping athletes deal with anxiety and stress. This follows the findings of numerous studies on the issue. Healthline looked at reports relating to anxiety and yoga, and found that people with anxiety disorders who practiced yoga regularly reported having significantly less attacks. Anxiety is an added burden for people whose bodies are constantly under strain, so finding constructive ways to deal with the pressure greatly improves their performance. 

 

Improves mental training

 

As mentioned above, improving mental health plays a big role in an athlete’s performance. Psychology Today discusses the strong connection between psychology and physical performance by saying that mental training is just as important as physical training. Having good mental health has been shown to have a positive impact on practically all aspects of an athlete’s life. Analysis by Maryville University on how psychology is used to determine human behavior explains how professionals have found connections between mental health and learning success. Mental illnesses such as depression often hinder athletes from being fully present during training where learning new moves or strategies is essential. Having a lower learning retention because of poor mental health keeps athletes from reaching their full potential.

 

Helps with endurance

 

Yoga often involves holding poses for long stretches of time. Each muscle is activated as you try to balance for a couple of breaths, making seconds feel like hours. Because of this, Shape looked at how yoga can help athletes with their endurance. The mental fortitude you acquire when trying to maintain a difficult pose is something athletes of any sport can benefit from. Yoga helps athletes build their mental capacity for endurance. Sport is very much a mental game, and athletes who are able to push their boundaries when they think they’ve given it all are those who make it to the top.

 

Enhances pre-game focus

 

Style Craze notes that the mental benefits of yoga are most useful for athletes about to enter a competition. Yoga helps to ease the pre-competition jitters and it also helps with athletic focus. Yoga teaches one to pay full attention to the regulation and control of their breathing. This skill helps sharpen the mind. A pre-game yoga session can help improve breathing and focus.

 

Practicing yoga regularly helps keep athletes mentally healthy. As previously mentioned, it helps them respond to stress better. More than that however, yoga also helps cultivate one’s sense of self. Being good at yoga stems from being confident that you can do certain poses and literally lift yourself up in certain cases. This translates beyond the mat to improving an athlete’s self-esteem and self-worth, which ultimately helps them improve in their sport. For athletes who want to begin incorporating yoga into their training program, The Institute of Yoga Sports Science’s® breathing techniques session is a good place to start. Breathing is a core feature of practicing yoga, and learning proper breathing techniques can aid your mental game, reduce anxiety, and help you perform better overall. Furthermore, it can help increase your capacity for performing yoga.

Article specially written for yogasportscience.com 

By: J. Donna

Photo credit provided by pixaby.com

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