The practice of yoga was first developed in India and has evolved over thousands of years. Yoga disciples use poses, or asanas, to prepare their bodies for meditation practice-much as an athlete would prepare for a sports competition. The poses also serve as a means to alter one's consciousness and mental focus in the spiritual quest for "enlightenment." In essence, yoga is designed to bring body, mind, and spirit into balance (Hollingshead 30).
Through the practice of yoga, elite athletes and weekend warriors alike can benefit from this type of balance. This is especially true when athletes have pushed their bodies to the maximum, resulting in weakness or injury. Yoga can restore a weakened body and build it back up. Yoga postures, breath work, and inner focus can help rebalance, strengthen, and restore overtaxed muscles, joints, and ligaments (Hollingshead 31). Through this restoration process, athletes can increases their career longevity and develop an inner balance that will last a life time.
Athletes in all sports are finding that yogic conditioning not only elongates tight, shortened, and fatigued muscles but also brings calmness and clarity to the mind. One of the best lessons athletes can learn from practicing yoga is how to respect their bodies strengths and limits. Yoga is a powerful biofeedback tool that can help athletes develop better body awareness. Listening to the body and responding to its messages is a way to honor the body and not push it over the edge (Hollingshead 32).
Athletes, dancers, weight lifters, body sculptors, and other active individuals who incorporate yoga techniques in their activities discover that the benefits go beyond the effects of simple muscle stretching. These techniques are essential in eliminating stiffness, improving coordination, and preventing injuries. Moreover, yoga helps balance mental, emotional, and physical energy, thereby improving concentration...