Yoga has more to offer than just physical healing and therapy, recovery, and mental well-being for all ages. Professional athletes have claimed over the years that incorporating yoga into their fitness routine has played a vital role in enhancing their sports performance.
This is why it comes as no surprise that many of the NBA’s finest players credit yoga stretches and poses when it comes to improvement in their flexibility and balance. High-performance athletes can extract great improvements in strength, agility, and flexibility from regular yoga.
However, beginners can also progress over time just by including a few minutes of stretches at the end of each workout session.
5 benefits yoga offers for basketball players
The following are a few benefits yoga offers when playing this demanding game;
Increases Mobility and Core Strength
Basketball often requires sharp turns when dribbling opposite a shifty opponent, as well as sudden changes in direction. A player with better hip mobility and body balance can achieve this with little to no effort.
Holding poses for certain amounts of time provides an even balance and control of tension and relaxation throughout the body. Yoga stretches can also loosen inner and outer muscles while strengthening them. This reduces rigidity, so the player moves unrestrained and cramp-free.
Provides Better Posture and Agility
Yoga is best known for improving posture by elongating the spine and lengthening the muscles, which in basketball terms means a better vertical jump as a result of an inch or two added to one’s height. It does not only create space between the vertebrae but makes the player quick on their feet.
Most players have a habit of training only with intense workouts that add more pressure to their ankles, knees, and joints, but yoga instead focuses on these neglected areas. It strengthens the smaller muscles in the legs, which reduces the player’s reaction time significantly, contributes to his running speed, and results in a lighter step.
Improves Lung Coordination
Lung coordination does not only refer to better endurance and breathing control but also maintaining focus with a clear mind. Practicing yoga daily can help a person get more in tune with their breathing, so they are able to not run out of breath for longer periods of time.
This allows players to challenge themselves physically during each game. Most of these breathing exercises have the hidden advantage of making a person more aware of his surroundings and able to leave all day-to-day worries and frustrations behind, all of which are necessary for a successful career as a professional basketball player.
Helps Avoid Injuries
Most people are aware of the benefits of yoga when it comes to rehabilitation and recovery, as it improves blood circulation. However, very few also view it as a preventative measure against possible injuries.
Regular stretching does not only positively affect the muscles but also elongates and lengthens tissues. This makes them more flexible and less prone to damage and tears, which occur easily in rigid tissues. Moreover, yoga makes one more aware of their body and more in tune with any minor injuries before they become a threat to their career.
Helps Manage Stress
In addition to all the perks of yoga that make a player physically fit, there are others that tend to their mental well-being. Frustration over a referee’s call, an unsuccessful shot, or a lost match easily disheartens players, and this state of mind could negatively impact their game.
Unsurprisingly, yoga is also the best way to deal with pre-match anxiety or nervous jitters. Including meditation when practicing breathing control can make one focus on the present moment and leave behind all other worries plaguing the mind.
What are some recommended yoga poses for basketball players?
Yoga should be treated like every other exercise and tailored to an individual’s needs for optimal results. While no yoga poses are exclusively for basketball players, a combination of sets suitable for body balance, flexibility, and muscle strengthening is highly recommended.
Some popularly practiced poses that benefit athletes while working out key areas of the body include;
It is a back-bending asana in yoga, which strengthens the muscles in arms and loosens the ones in the back, shoulders, and hips.
This is an ideal pose for basketball players but is not suitable for beginners, as it requires high flexibility.
Warrior 1 Pose
This pose aims at increasing one’s agility by strengthening ankles and joints. It requires the person to stand with their feet apart, one at 45 degrees and the other at 90 degrees.
In a true test of body balance, one has to then bend their knee, pressing on the former foot’s heel, with their arms upwards together or parallel.
Requiring unhindered focus, the Eagle is a very demanding pose but also rewards one with near-perfect posture and extraordinary body balance.
Athletes should bend their knees, crossing the left thigh over the right and tucking the foot into the calf before they fit their right elbow into the left’s crook, touch their palms and raise their fingers upwards.
This is one of the few poses of yoga that teach breathing control and body awareness. The simple steps involve emptying your lungs with closed eyes, inhaling to a count of six, and then exhaling to the same count, all the while constricting the back of your throat.
Professionals recommend that hearing your breathing during this pose is essential to the pose itself, so covering one’s ears gently is suitable.
When including yoga in one’s fitness routine, it is necessary to keep an open mind and be willing to try various poses, stretches, and exercises till you find the right ones for your body.
Basketball players should focus on including a combination of elements that allow them to stretch, hold, balance, and breathe at least four times a week.
Regularity and stepping out of your comfort zone are the two main things required to attain the true essence and benefits of yoga that most NBA all-stars swear by.