Yoga for Athletes: 10 of the Best Stretches and How They Help – Greatist

Yoga for Athletes: 10 of the Best Stretches and How They Help – Greatist

Yoga’s not just for yogis — it’s also pretty legit for athletes. Pros like LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, and Evelyn Stevens reportedly practice yoga. And if year-round fitness is part of their livelihood, they aren’t doing it for no reason.
If you can splash three-pointers like Steph Curry but have no idea what to do once you hit the yoga mat, don’t worry. We got you covered.
From the yoga mat to the court or field, the following stretches just might enhance your athletic performance.
Great for: Basketball players, football players, tennis players, gymnasts, runners
Great for: Football players, basketball players, volleyball players, gymnasts
Modification: You can also do this with your hands behind your head, in a V, or at 90 degrees — whatever’s most comfy. You can also place bolsters or folded blankets at your sides to stretch without any strain.
Great for: Tennis players, golfers, baseball players
Great for: Basketball players, football players, runners, gymnasts
Great for: Swimmers, cyclists, golfers, tennis players, baseball players
Great for: Gymnasts, volleyball players, cyclists, golfers, rowers, swimmers, kayakers, soccer players
Great for: Tennis players, golfers, baseball players, swimmers, basketball players
Pro tip: To keep your knees from shifting outward, place a block between your upper thighs and squeeze it like you mean it.
Great for: Basketball players, runners
Great for: Tennis players, gymnasts, baseball players
Modification: Your hips should be level in this pose. If you feel a little off-balance, support your butt with a block or folded blanket.
Another mod: A Half Pigeon is also effective — instead of lowering your upper body, keep it perpendicular to the floor.
Great for: Basketball players, football players, runners
Some credit mandatory yoga instruction for getting the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl a while back.
Who knows if it was all those Cobra and Locust Poses that helped them beat out the competition, but science does show that yoga provides a number of performance benefits for athletes, including:
Lots of sports, from basketball to martial arts to wrestling, require excellent balance and flexibility.
Good news too: A small 2016 study measured yoga’s effectiveness on performance in 26 male college athletes. Those who did yoga twice a week saw “significant” improvements in their balance and flexibility compared with those who didn’t.
It’s no secret that yoga can improve mindfulness, which basically is the art of living in the present moment. Focusing on your breath and body is a great way to be *fully present,* which may be just what athletes need to improve their focus.
In a 2017 review, researchers concluded that practicing mindfulness regularly — surprise! — led to improved performance in a number of athletes. Afterward, this mindfulness habit was shown to have positive effects on shooting and dart throwing.
So, while more research needs to be done before we can draw any major conclusions, yoga just might help with the heightened concentration necessary for precision sports. (Or at least help you beat everyone in darts at the bar.)
If you’re going to do yoga, why not make it steamy?
In a small 2018 study, researchers examined the effects of hot yoga as a heat stress technique alternative for 10 field hockey players.
They found that hot yoga improved cardiovascular performance and plasma volume percentage, which helps regulate temperature while you move.
Pro athletes may have access to world-class training and health programs, but yoga doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. You can get the job done with a mat and a few YouTube vids. (Bless you, internet.)
As with any other physical activity, when doing yoga, it’s important to:
Adding even a little yoga to your normal routine could result in big gains — whether that’s in your sports performance or your making-it-through-your-commute-without-screaming performance.
Here are some tips for fitting yoga into your weekly exercise regimen:
Yoga can provide a number of benefits for athletes, such as improved flexibility, balance, performance, coordination, and concentration. Doing hot yoga may also aid in cardiovascular health and temperature regulation.
Adding yoga to your exercise routine is highly personal, so take some time to experiment and find what works best for you. If you’re not sure where to start, consider taking a beginner’s yoga class or connecting with a fellow athlete who’s experienced in yoga.
Last medically reviewed on July 22, 2021
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