by Dr. David Dwyer, RI
LeBron James, Alex Morgan, Danica Patrick and Russell Wilson are all professional athletes at the height of their respective sport. Each of these athletes practice yoga and they are not alone! While the practice of yoga dates back to ancient times, today it can be increasingly found in athletic training programs of all levels. Yoga’s focus on body awareness, proper breathing, full range of motion and stability in challenging postures, makes it the ideal foundation for athletic training and performance.
Essentially, yoga is a practice of developing awareness. The methodology of the practice provides a great opportunity for this every time you step on the mat. Over time, the skill of “listening to your body” becomes highly developed. You’ll get to know your body well: how it moves, what areas are tight or restricted, what areas move freely, what areas are weak. This self-knowledge and sensitivity is invaluable when navigating through a training program, giving the ability to evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
Another fundamental aspect of yoga is the practice of seamlessly linking the cycles of breath with each body
movement. Development of this skill provides for movement that is more efficient and therefore, more powerful. Movement becomes more coordinated, with less stress and strain, and the risk of injury is reduced.
Joints that are able move through their full, intended range of motion. The compressive forces acting upon the joint surfaces are minimal and well distributed. There is optimal muscle length and good balance of the muscles acting on the joint. The alignment of the bones is good. During athletic activity, such joints will be able to withstand full loading and will not put a limit on the amount of muscular power that can be generated. There is ease and fluidity of movement. Yoga encourages full range of motion in the way postures are designed, how they are performed and how long they are held.
One of the things that makes yoga interesting and intriguing is the practice of developing control and stability in complex postures. Individual yoga postures combine various parts of the body, in a variety of movement patterns, taken to the end range of motion and held for a period of time. This requires stability and motor control! Abilities that are a must for any serious athlete. Abilities that should be established before the onset of strength training, and that will make the acquisition of specific skills more successful.
The principles and practice of yoga provide a great foundation for any and all movement. As seen with many of today’s top professional athletes, yoga can be used as a tool to develop the body and achieve optimal performance.
Dr. David Dwyer, DC is a chiropractor in private practice at Toll Gate Chiropractic, Dr. David Dwyer is also co-owner of All That Matters, a dedicated yoga and meditation teacher, and a five-time marathon runner. Dr. Dwyer has completed post-graduate training in neurology, acupuncture, nutrition and chiropractic. All That Matters, yoga and holistic health centers, offer more than 100 weekly yoga classes at studios in Providence, East Greenwich and South Kingstown.