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yoga may be a workout in the spotlight, but it is still often misunderstood.
This ancient practice has become a fad fitness for thousands filling needs for petite and lithe body types, guru-centric life paths, gentle body sculpting and physiotherapy needs. It has capitalized on destination retreats, high-end studios and airy Bohemian workout gear. All of this is wonderful because it has given yoga a place among the modern day fitness trends, and while others may come and go, this nearly 10,000 year old art form is here to stay.
You, like thousands of others, may think yoga is not your style. You prefer dead lifts and plyos over warrior one and tree pose, but that is most likely due to a few yoga myths. First, yoga is not only for people with natural flexibility. It is actually more beneficial for those who can barely touch their toes.
When Shaquille O’Neil took a summer to explore all the sports, he tried out boxing with Oscar De La Hoya, swimming with Michael Phelps, football with Ben Roethlisberger, beach volleyball and that’s right, yoga! Here is a man who is 7 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 325 pounds. Upon first glance, you do not put Shaq and yoga in the same sentence, but it made the cut in his athletic inquiry. He took his first class at Cleveland Yoga in Beachwood with the owner Tami Schneider.
i'm the worst yoga student in the history of yoga, o'neal said.
This actually wasn’t true. Schneider said she had seen people struggle much more in her 12 years of teaching. O’Neal was given two mats and a few modifications to accommodate his size and the tightness in his muscles. He admitted to not stretching often, and his body showed this, but he promised to continue the practice. Schneider was excited to continue working with him to bring back some mobility and ease through deeper stretches. She even ordered a 100-inch mat!
"You just want to stay loose. You have to do different things to stay loose," O'Neal said to the AP. The next myth that seems to circle around yoga is that it isn’t really exercise. Yoga is stretching designed to calm the mind, relieve stress and focus on breath work. While these things are very true, they are not the only benefits to yoga. Yes, it has been proven to lower cortisol levels which reduces stress and anxiety. The intense focus on the postures and flow of movements does bring a lot of ease to the mind, much like meditation, and by aligning your breath with the practice, you will enhance focus and enhance your energy by flooding your system with oxygen. Studies have shown that the regular stretching and deep muscle work provide pain relief, improve mobility and agility and combat wear and tear, along with aging on the muscular and skeletal framework. Yoga does all of this and provides a workout.
Researcher Alyson Ross, MSN, RN, and her team studied the effects of yoga in comparison to aerobic exercise. Yoga actually outperformed standard aerobic conditioning in regard to balance, flexibility and strength training! Given yoga’s well-rounded approach to healing the body, it is official that this fitness routine is an effective tool for weight management and lean muscle development.
If you still don’t think yoga has anything to offer you, let’s take a look at one of the most famous athletes in sports today, LeBron James. We all agree that his athletic build and fitness level are in peak form, so what is he doing to stay at the top? Yoga!
James is not new to this practice and has spent quite a bit of time on the mat for several years now. He attributes his incredible stamina during season to his regular yoga training. Yoga classes between games help him to avoid cramps, so he can play to the end. He believes that the connection of mind and body made through yoga helps to keep him ahead of the game, literally.
If Shaquille and LeBron are not enough to show you yoga has a place with the top fitness routines on the planet, then how about the entire San Antonio Spurs team! Coach Gregg Popovich has had the team practicing yoga for years. He believes the flexibility and relaxation improve their performance. Not a Spurs fan? What about the Giants or the Seahawks? Even the Duke basketball team. They all have regular team yoga practice. It has become a stronghold in mainstream sport’s training for all the above listed reasons as well as its proven ability to reduce injuries, improve physical weaknesses through more body awareness, enhance core strength and form and increase endurance.
Yoga is showing up in all major sports as athletes discover the benefits to their bodies, performance and mind. San Francisco Giants’ Evan Longoria, Washington Redskins’ Vernon Davis, Detroit Pistons’ Blake Griffin, former NHL goaltender Sean Burke and many of the Patriots and Cavaliers have turned to this ancient technique to become better athletes.
This doesn’t mean yoga is the only exercise needed to get into pro-form, but it certainly holds its own in regular training. Try substituting your standard routine 2 to 3 times each week with an hour or more of yoga. Explore the different forms like Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, Kundalini or Vinyasa. You will likely connect to one more than another, but be sure to choose the form that challenges you the most in order to get the maximum benefits from your practice.
yoga actually outperformed standard aerobic conditioning in regard to balance, flexibility and strength training!