It might not surprise many to hear that Dirk Nowitzki pursues yoga instruction in the offseason, as his cross training practices are the stuff of legend. The German 7-footer has tried everything from saxophone to hiking the Australian outback, and recently many other top flight athletes have begun to follow in his footsteps. Lebron James, Kevin Love, Victor Cruz, and the retired Shaquille O’Neal are all superstars who are turning to yoga to keep themselves in shape in the offseason. Lebron James in particular is vocal about how it has increased his endurance and mental toughness. The health experts at AUM Ayurveda applaud these efforts, noting that when combined with detoxifying diet and other forms of exercise, yoga can help athletes to stay in peak form and heal from various injuries. Here is a short list of reasons why they recommend that athletes practice yoga:
Injury Prevention and Management
A major part of yoga is stretching and endurance, qualities that can strengthen the protective muscles around tendons and joints. This reduces the risk of new injury by increasing flexibility and body awareness in a safe, low-impact environment. Perhaps more importantly, yoga can also be a non-invasive way to grapple with existing injuries. Lebron James notes that the lower back problems he dealt with early into his career went away after yoga, a result of the powerful, proven meditative and physical healing effects the ancient practice possesses.
Known for its ability to reduce stress, fight off depression, and psychologically center practitioners, yoga is a great way for athletes to work on their ‘head game.’ Particularly when combined with a more extensive health improvement regimen like Ayurveda, yoga can increase mental focus and intensity. The legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is known for his ice-cold calm on the hardwood, rarely betraying any emotion. A longtime yoga practitioner, he has won four NCAA titles and two Olympic gold medals in part through the peace of mind and meditative technique he learned with yoga.
The amount of dedication and determination that it takes to become an internationally recognized athlete is almost inconceivable to anyone who has not pursued the upper echelons of sports. That said, it’s critical to the mental and physical health of athletes that they find ways to experience life outside of their games. Ray Lewis and Kevin Garnett are both known for being vicious, screaming competitors, and both credit yoga for keeping them “balanced.” The proven health and healing benefits speak for themselves, but the fact that yoga gives athletes a place where they’re allowed to focus on something other than their sport cannot go overlooked.
AUM Ayurveda is a health, wellness and nutrition center located in San Jose, CA. Operated by Vaidya Priyanka, from a 719 year old lineage, the organization seeks to improve holistic lifestyle and the mind body connection of clients through the ancient practice of Ayurveda.