In 1996, at six months old, my oldest son picked up his first baseball bat and hasn’t put it down since. Just as I fell in love with yoga, he fell in love with baseball.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010. As I sat there observing the closing remarks pep talk at a local university youth baseball clinic, I bravely decided to email the head baseball coach to discuss offering yoga to the team. Typically, that would have me shaking in my boots! But not this time. I knew baseball from spending years at the field with my son and I certainly knew how to teach yoga and mindfulness. After he agreed to meet with me, I spent hours creating a handout listing the specific benefits of Yoga for Baseball Players. After a ten-minute conversation, I got the gig!
Knowledge and communication are of the utmost importance in order for athletes and those who support them to understand the sport-specific benefits of creating a sustainable yoga practice. The coach, athletes, and parents need to understand the ‘why’ of what they are doing, and so do you!
TOP 4 BENEFITS OF YOGA & MINDFULNESS FOR ATHLETES
1. Breath Awareness
“Better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance.” ~Mindy Solkin of The Running Center
It is important for an athlete to utilize the breath in a functional way relevant to the action taking place in the body. Inhaling when the muscles are expanding allows space for air, oxygenating the brain, blood and muscles. Exhaling while muscles are contracting forces out stale air which provides extra power and propulsion.
2. Injury Prevention
Anyone that has attended a training, workshop or class with me can tell you my number one rule is “Yoga should never hurt.” This is never truer than when working with athletes. Teaching proper alignment is imperative for a sustainable physical practice and should support the activity. Clear, simple alignment instructions promote proper body mechanics and is believed to aid in injury prevention and improve balance, flexibility, range of motion, strength and stability.
3. Reduces Anxiety
Have you ever observed (or participated in) an athletic event where the outcome was affected by the participant’s state of mind? A track meet where the runner gives up because he falls behind? A softball pitcher who is rattled by the dugout banter? A swimmer who is frazzled by a false start? Having a yoga and mindfulness practice allows an athlete to create the healthy habit of becoming a witness to the present moment, then choose a productive tool, such as a breathing technique, for the best possible desired outcome.
No matter why you may be invited to teach a yoga & mindfulness class to athletes, one of the most crucial components of the class needs to be savasana, or “nap time” as some of my students lovingly call it. In this fast-moving, over-scheduled, high-demand world where people get up early and fall into bed late at night, being told we have four minutes to lie on our mat to do absolutely nothing feels like receiving a gift. This time balances work with rest allowing the nervous system to come back into a state of equilibrium.
Since the initial opportunity in 2010, I have continued to teach yoga and mindfulness with softball, baseball, soccer, football, Cross Country and Track & Field youth athletic teams in a variety of settings. In 2018, I collaborated with Ann Biese, E-RYT500, RCYT, to document what we have learned through our many years of teaching. We hope you are able to join us at the Yoga & Mindfulness for Athletes Teacher Training to learn best practices for integrating yoga and mindfulness into a training regimen.
We hope you can join us live online soon!
Sally Delisle, E-RYT500, RCYT, YACEP, CD, is a co-owner of ChildLight Education Company and has been teaching since 2001. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, an Associates degree of Fine Arts in Dance, holds a Certification through the American Reflexology Certification Board, is a Reiki Master and Certified Doula. Sally discovered ChildLight in 2009 and began leading Yoga 4 Classrooms Professional Development Workshops and ChildLight trainings in 2010 along with other Yoga Alliance approved 200-hour and 500-hour teacher trainings. She developed ChildLight’s 95 hour Registered Yoga School in 2014 after being hired as Director. Read more about Sally here.