Training nearly every day, professional athletes strategically plan workouts around how well their bodies can train while handling the stress and strain. Yoga and meditation can round out athletes’ strenuous workouts, both mentally and physically. Balancing high-intensity training with yoga and meditation can reduce strain on the body and mind, decreasing the chance of a burnout or injury and extending a career.
Whether in a warmup or as a training session, yoga stretches and builds muscles to increase strength, flexibility, balance and endurance, while helping in recovery to keep the workouts on track. Meditating balances minds, releasing the mental stress that comes with high-intensity training or situations like games, matches and races.
Top professional athletes use yoga and meditation in their training: Carli Lloyd, Ryan Giggs, Novak Djokovic, Rich Roll, and many more.
Carli Lloyd, USWNT player and 2015 World Cup champion: “I think at the end of the day you can be physically strong, you can have all the tools out there, but if your mental state isn’t good enough, you can’t bring yourself to bigger and better things. And for me, I’ve just constantly been visualizing, constantly been growing confidence with each and every game, and I was on a mission.”
Ryan Giggs, former England and Manchester United soccer player: “(Yoga) strengthens your muscles, improves flexibility, but also keeps you fit and gets you out on the training pitch so you can train every day. You want to be out there so you need to get your body robust and ready for anything.”
Novak Djokovic, top pro tennis player: “I don't want to tell you what I gain with (meditation), but I'll tell what I lose with it… I lose fear. I lose anxiety. I lose stress. I guess, in the end of the day, that's what you're looking for."
Rich Roll, ultra-endurance athlete: “Every athlete – irrespective of sport or discipline – has the potential to enhance his or her ability by adopting a consistent yoga practice.”
Many of these athletes express the clear mind, strength and flexibility that come with yoga and meditation. With those practices, they become more aware of their bodies and can better handle stress in the moment and after trainings, games, matches and races. Also athletes can extend their careers with the freeing of stress and strain from yoga. Ryan Giggs played soccer professionally into his 40s and credits much of that success to yoga.
In a study published in The Sports Journal, researchers tested to see how mindfulness training could mediate stress, performance and burnout. They found meditation helps athletes’ awareness and recovery, while reducing stress and burnout (Furrer et. al 2015). Consistent meditation can better an athlete’s eating and sleeping, strength and focus.
Not everybody is a professional athlete, but that doesn’t mean they can’t train like one. Try mixing in meditation and yoga into your daily or weekly workout routines.
Here are some tips on bringing meditation into your trainings:
Pause, and focus on one body part at a time — its strength and flexibility
Think of a mantra to help you focus on the meditation. “I am breathing in. I am breathing out.”
Inhale and exhale deeply through your nose for an extended period of time
Sit quietly and focus on what you aim to accomplish
With different sports putting strain on different muscle groups, athletes can find certain positions and poses to work on certain areas more related to their sports.
Here are some poses for all athletes that loosen leg muscles, the core and the back. Remember that yoga is a practice to help heal, and never hurt, so if you need to ease out of a shape or take a break do so. You can always try again.
Supine Core Strengthener
Lie on your back. Lift both legs up 90 degrees, and lie arms on ground at shoulder height, palms facing up. Take 10 breaths with both legs up. Then extend one leg to two inches above the floor, with the other still up. Take 10 breaths. Switch legs, and take another 10 breaths.
Downward Facing Dog
Start on hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Stretch your elbows back and relax your upper back. Spread fingers wide while pressing through palms and knuckles. Exhale as your tuck toes and lift knees off the floor. Straighten your legs, without locking your knees, bringing your body into an A-shape. Press the floor away from you, lifting your pelvis. Breathe and hold for 15 breaths.
High, Crescent Lunge
Step one foot forward, bending front leg to a right angle. Raise both arms to the sky. Lift up through lower belly, lifting weight from the front hip. Stay for 10 breaths on each side.
Start on your hands and knees, and place one foot between hands and lower back knee to the floor. Walk front foot forward toward opposite groin, rotating front leg outward and resting top of foot and outside of calf and knee on the ground. Direct back thigh onto or toward the floor, keeping leg behind your body.
From a standing position, use your exhale to slowly fold forward by hinging at your hips. Allow your knees to bend and your torso to be heavy. Breathe as long as you’d like.
TYP is excited to bring yoga to the the Philadelphia Union Fans and Community for Yoga Day!
On Sunday, Sept. 23 the Union will take on Sporting Kansas City. Following the game, TYP instructors will lead the first-ever yoga class on Talen Energy Stadium’s field! Buy tickets to the game and the on-field yoga session here.
This blog post was written by Connor Fogel, TYP social media intern.