Why Yoga Should Be on Every Athlete’s Radar

bike
 

Here’s the deal. I love speed. The thrill of bombing down a mountain bike trail or making high speed powder turns never gets old. In fact, finding that thrill has become a bit of an obsession.

To me, yoga is the opposite of the adrenaline rush I find in so-called gravity sports. It’s zen. It’s calming. It doesn’t involve that same increased heart rate. Yet, I’m learning that it is more compatible with skiing and mountain biking than I initially thought.

Strength

To really enjoy any recreational passion you have, you need to have the strength to do it. No brainer there. As I’m learning, yoga helps build strength that will help me become a better skier and mountain biker. Chair pose, pretty much any warrior pose, yoga push-ups, and chaturangas all build core and leg strength. Similarly, some poses provide much needed relief for my overdeveloped hip flexors and tight hamstrings, serving as a nice counterbalance.

Technique and Alignment

Early on in skiing, you learn about the importance of good technique to avoid knee issues (and not fall). In yoga, I learned the importance of good alignment to avoid shoulder, wrist and knee pain. Learning the correct skills at the beginning makes a world of difference. In my case, learning what not to do in yoga class allows me to create some positive muscle memory that should ensure I a) don’t hurt myself and b) enjoy it more.

This is the very same thing that is emphasized in mountain biking, skiing, and pretty much any sport you can think of. Good technique makes things a whole lot more fun. Fact.

Balance

Just as riding a bike requires a modicum of balance, so too do many yoga poses. Those poses help build the overall strength required to maintain balance on the bike and on skis. While I may waver in eagle pose now, I know that improving my balance there will carry over to my bike handling skills.

At least I hope so.

Focus

Finding focus is common to skiing, mountain biking and yoga. When skiing a steep no-fall zone, you need to be in the moment to avoid the consequences. Similarly, mountain biking down a rock garden requires the ability to block out distractions (and fear).

The yogic concept of drishti, or concentrated intention, is a tool that I can use when trying to descend a technical section on my mountain bike, get roped into trying to ski the terrain park, or when I find myself on snow that’s not as soft as I thought.

Yoga may not deliver the same burst of adrenaline like the sports I love, but it’s clear there are benefits to incorporating it into my ski and mountain bike ‘practices’. Who knows, one day I may become as passionate about downward dog as I am about powder skiing.

jenn_avatar_2012Jenn is a marketing consultant to the travel, recreation, & hospitality industries in real life, but her true passions involve playing outside as much as possible. She lives at Lake Tahoe in order to do just that. When she’s not skiing, hiking, mountain biking, or running after her dog while enjoying the majesty of the Sierra, she’s thinking about them and planning her next adventure.

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