yoga fitness and health benefits for athletes(ultimate guide)

training styles and different sports come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, about 86% of health clubs offer yoga. yoga been around for more than 5,000 years. In the modern world, the South Asian art of yoga has expanded to all corners of the globe. While it is now a popular form of exercise and meditation, this has not always been the case. Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
although The teachings of Yoga are based on many different philosophies and religions, but we must know Yoga is NOT a religion, rather it is a discipline. Yoga does not bother much about changing the outside world. There is a Sanskrit saying, “As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” Gandhi was a great Yogi(he practiced Karma yoga) and he has a saying which is “be the change you wish to see in the world” for you cannot change the world if you cannot change yourself.
if you look up yoga in a dictionary, it will probably say something like a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.
In a yoga class, as you learn to do yoga poses, you will be instructed to notice your breath and the way your body moves during the exercises. The is the foundation of a mind-body connection.
A well-balanced series of yoga exercises gives you the opportunity to scan your entire body, noting how you feel as you move through the poses. You may begin to realize, for example, that one side of your body feels different than the other during a stretch, or that it’s easier to balance on your right leg, or that certain poses helps ease tension in your neck. This is how yoga turns physical exercises into tools to help students become more mindful and even learn to meditate.
yoga is still a type of physical activity but it really is not that focused on body as it is on mind and awareness. Rather than being a discipline that pushes your cardiovascular system to the limit, instead Yoga relies on improving your strength, flexibility and breathing through a series of increasingly difficult stretches. It’s designed to help you think more clearly and improve your mental wellness, as well as helping with your overall health and fitness.
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind meaning when you can control the rising of the mind, you will experience Yoga or Union.
Practising mindfulness has lasting physical and psychological benefits that are very much in line with the benefits of yoga. You will feel more calm and relaxed, and less stressed and anxious.
nevertheless, yoga highly priorities fitness and well being of the body as well since yoga believes mind and body is one. If the mind is unwell it will be evident in the body and vice versa. The word Yoga translates as ‘union’ and refers to the experience of oneness with the universe and is referred to as Samadhi.
Male yoga practitioners are known as yogis, and female yoga practitioners are called yoginis. Both practiced and taught yoga long before any written account of yoga came into existence.
(The “Yoga Sutra,” a 2,000-year-old treatise on yogic philosophy by the Indian sage Patanjali, is a guidebook on how to master the mind, control the emotions, and grow spiritually. The Yoga Sutra is the earliest written record of yoga and one of the oldest texts in existence and provides the framework for all modern yoga.)
In the health fields, yoga techniques are being applied in health promotion programs, substance abuse treatment programs, and as a complementary treatment for diseases such as anxiety disorders, depression, coronary heart disease, cancers, and HIV/AIDS. Yoga is a low-cost self-help approach to well-being.
yoga is not trying to reach some supreme state outside of ourselves, for then we are saying we are not enough, but rather we are discovering that place inside ourselves where we feel complete.
One of the most wonderful things about yoga is there is no optimum amount of time you need to practice. it is totally up to you, what feels right and best for you but also, most importantly, for those with busy diaries, whatever fits in best with your own schedule.
Yoga focuses on the fact that chakras are center points of energy, thoughts, feelings, and the physical body. According to yogic teachers, chakras determine the way people experience reality through emotional reactions, desires or aversions, levels of confidence or fear, and even physical symptoms and effects.

what are chakras?

Chakra (cakra in Sanskrit) means “wheel” and refers to energy points in your body. They are thought to be spinning disks of energy that should stay “open” and aligned, as they correspond to bundles of nerves, major organs, and areas of our energetic body that affect our emotional and physical well-being.
Some say there are 114 different chakras, but there are seven main chakras that run along your spine. These are the chakras that most of us are referring to when we talk about them.
Root chakra
The root chakra, or Muladhara, is located at the base of your spine. It provides you with a base or foundation for life, and it helps you feel grounded and able to withstand challenges. Your root chakra is responsible for your sense of security and stability.
Sacral chakra
The sacral chakra, or Svadhisthana, is located just below your belly button. This chakra is responsible for your sexual and creative energy. It’s also linked to how you relate to your emotions as well as the emotions of others.
Solar plexus chakra
The solar plexus chakra, or Manipura, is located in your stomach area. It’s responsible for confidence and self-esteem, as well as helping you feel in control of your life.
Heart chakra
The heart chakra, or Anahata, is located near your heart, in the center of your chest. It comes as no surprise that the heart chakra is all about our ability to love and show compassion.
Throat chakra
The throat chakra, or Vishuddha, is located in your throat. This chakra has to do with our ability to communicate verbally.
Third eye chakra
The third eye chakra, or Ajna, is located between your eyes. You can thank this chakra for a strong gut instinct. That’s because the third eye is responsible for intuition. It’s also linked to imagination.
Crown chakra
The crown chakra, or Sahasrara, is located at the top of your head. Your Sahasrara represents your spiritual connection to yourself, others, and the universe. It also plays a role in your life’s purpose.

what are the health and fitness benefits of yoga?

1. yoga reduces stress and anxiety

multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
Studies have shown that those people who regularly practice all three elements are better able to regulate their heart-rate variability (HRV). This generally means that their heart rate is lower, giving the body the ability to respond to stress in a more flexible way.
From a place of peace and calm, we can use our mental facilities more efficiently. Overall, by reducing mental stress and physical tension through daily yoga, you’ll be able to think sharper and have more organised thoughts.
Another study followed 64 women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by severe anxiety and fear following exposure to a traumatic event.
After 10 weeks, the women who practiced yoga once weekly had fewer symptoms of PTSD. In fact, 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD at all.
One study demonstrated the powerful effect of yoga on stress by following 24 women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed.
In one study, 34 women diagnosed with an anxiety disorder participated in yoga classes twice weekly for two months.
At the end of the study, those who practiced yoga had significantly lower levels of anxiety than the control group.
After a three-month yoga program, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression.
Another study of 131 people had similar results, showing that 10 weeks of yoga helped reduce stress and anxiety. It also helped improve quality of life and mental health.
also increasing evidence shows that yoga could be a useful adjunct therapy to help reduce migraine frequency.
A 2007 study divided 72 patients with migraines into either a yoga therapy or self-care group for three months. Practicing yoga led to reductions in headache intensity, frequency and pain compared to the self-care group.

2. Yoga improves flexibility and mobility

You don’t have to be super flexible to practice yoga, the beauty of yoga is that it can be practised at all levels of ability. There is considerable research that backs this benefit, demonstrating that it can optimize performance through the use of specific poses that target flexibility and balance.
A 2013 study also found that practicing yoga could help improve balance and mobility in older adults.
A recent study looked at the impact of 10 weeks of yoga on 26 male college athletes. Doing yoga significantly increased several measures of flexibility and balance, compared to the control group. Another study assigned 66 elderly participants to either practice yoga or calisthenics, a type of body weight exercise. After one year, total flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly four times that of the calisthenics group.

3. yoga can help with Inflammation

Inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
A 2015 study divided 218 participants into two groups: those who practiced yoga regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups then performed moderate and strenuous exercises to induce stress. At the end of the study, the individuals who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who didn’t.
Similarly, a small 2014 study showed that 12 weeks of yoga reduced inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue.

4. Yoga helps you correct bad posture

When you build your strength through yoga, you are also balancing it with your flexibility (often missed out on when training in the gym or with weights). A well-balanced practice will help keep your disks supple, as well as assist with curves in the spine caused by slumping.

5. yoga is good for cardiovascular health

Studies show that yoga may help improve heart health and reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
One study found that participants over 40 years of age who practiced yoga for five years had a lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who didn’t.
High blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart problems, such as heart attacks and stroke. Lowering your blood pressure can help reduce the risk of these problems.
Some research also suggests that incorporating yoga into a healthy lifestyle could help slow the progression of heart disease.
A study followed 113 patients with heart disease, looking at the effects of a lifestyle change that included one year of yoga training combined with dietary modifications and stress management.
Participants saw a 23% decrease in total cholesterol and a 26% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the progression of heart disease stopped in 47% of patients.

6. yoga helps with depression and drug abuse

Yoga gives you all that a gym can, but in a peaceful, safe, and more holistic way. It combines aspects of cardio, functional, and strength training all in one.
In a study of coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or C.O.P.D., yoga was shown to alleviate depression and anxiety.
In one study, participants in an alcohol dependence program practiced Sudarshan Kriya, a specific type of yoga that focuses on rhythmic breathing.
After two weeks, participants had fewer symptoms of depression and lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of ACTH, a hormone responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol.
a study has shown that practising regular yoga and meditation results in higher serotonin levels (the happy hormone). The same study showed that long-term yoga practitioners have more mass in the areas of the brain associated with contentment.
This may be because yoga is able to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that influences levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter often associated with depression.
Another study has shown that the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels are higher after practising yoga. Higher GABA levels are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.

7. yoga helps immunity and pain tolerance

There is a growing body of research demonstrating that practicing yoga could help reduce many types of chronic pain. as mentioned, Yoga also helps lower the levels of stress hormones in your body and calms the nervous system, A recent study revealed that a regular practice decreases chronic inflammation in the body by lowering the level of pro-inflammatory markers, such as cytokines.
In one study, 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome either received a wrist splint or did yoga for eight weeks.
At the end of the study, yoga was found to be more effective in reducing pain and improving grip strength than wrist splinting.
also Weekly yoga classes have shown to relieve symptoms of low back pain about as well as intense, regular stretching sessions.

8. Yoga improves concentration

An important part of yoga practice is to focus on the present and allow yourself to be in the here and now. Improved cognitive function happens when we can clear our minds and refresh them.
When practising yoga, you will shift your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose. That awareness will bring the mind back to the present moment – the main aim of mindfulness – where it can stay happy and focused.
Yoga poses and meditation require you to concentrate on your breathing. This process of observing your breath calms your mind and makes you more mentally relaxed. As a result of this mental stability, you’ll be able to recollect and retain more information. Meditating for just a few minutes in the morning can result in better concentration throughout the day.

9. yoga can help you control your breathing tempo and quality

Breathing deeply and calmly is an essential part of every yoga practice. Yogic breathing techniques (called pranayama) focus on trying to slow down the breath and on breathing fully from the pit of your stomach to the top of your lungs.
Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is a practice in yoga that focuses on controlling the breath through breathing exercises and techniques.
Yoga breathing techniques also offer a “ way into meditation,” says Elena Brower, a yoga and meditation teacher and the author of “Art of Attention.” Ms. Brower says that more people who have in recent years focused on the physical aspects of yoga are moving toward meditation, as they find “they have an increasing need to have time to reflect, release and recalibrate.”
Vital capacity is a measure of the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs. It is especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma.
Most types of yoga incorporate these breathing exercises, and several studies have found that practicing yoga could help improve breathing.
These methods will make you feel more relaxed and balanced and will help you face the day with confidence and calm. They also have some great side benefits including increased lung capacity and more tidal volume (the total amount of air your lungs can hold at any one time).
In one study, 287 college students took a 15-week class where they were taught various yoga poses and breathing exercises. At the end of the study, they had a significant increase in vital capacity.

10. yoga helps with sleeping patterns

multiple Studies show that incorporating yoga into your routine could help promote better sleep.
In a 2005 study, 69 elderly patients were assigned to either practice yoga, take an herbal preparation or be part of the control group.
The yoga group fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning than the other groups.
When experiencing insomnia, practise relaxing asanas or postures, such as forward fold (uttanasana) or lying on your back with your feet up the wall.
Relaxing yoga poses such as the forward fold or lying on your back with your feet up the wall can calm both your body and mind.
Another study looked at the effects of yoga on sleep in patients with lymphoma. They found that it decreased sleep disturbances, improved sleep quality and duration and reduced the need for sleep medications. Though the way it works is not clear, yoga has been shown to increase the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.

11. yoga helps you choose a healthy diet

after all, It’s about paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of your food and noticing any thoughts, feelings or sensations you experience while eating. Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is a concept that encourages being present in the moment while eating.
It’s about paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of your food and noticing any thoughts, feelings or sensations you experience while eating.
This practice has been shown to promote healthy eating habits that help control blood sugar, increase weight loss and treat disordered eating behaviors.
Because yoga places a similar emphasis on mindfulness, some studies show that it could be used to encourage healthy eating behaviors.
One study incorporated yoga into an outpatient eating disorder treatment program with 54 patients, finding that yoga helped reduce both eating disorder symptoms and preoccupation with food.

what styles of yoga are there?

The traditional practice of yoga was quite rigorous. A lifelong devotion to the practice and adherence to strict sacrifices was expected. Later-age yoga teachers have modified the techniques, and various paths emerged.
Over the last 70 years, yoga styles have developed in many ways each with its own focus. However, all yoga in gym settings is rooted in Hatha Yoga, from Krishnamacharya.
there are a lot of styles and approaches to yoga but here we are going to introduce some of them to you:

Hatha Yoga

The form most often associated with yoga, it combines a series of basic movements with breathing.
Hatha Yoga focuses on the correct alignment of each of the joint areas for maximum stability, so that a pose can be held. The isometric aspect strengthens and tones the muscles and joint tissue, it also activates the lymphatic system therefore it has a detoxifying effect on the vascular system. Hatha yoga often uses portable personal props, such as a yoga mat or belt, to strengthen the poses.

kundalini yoga

Kundalini means “coiled, like a snake.” Kundalini yoga is a system of meditation that aims to release pent-up energy.
In kundalini yoga, the fundamental meditation technique involves performing a “formless” contemplation at different points including the pituitary and the hypothalamus glands. In addition to the meditation, selected asanas, breathing techniques, and relaxation geared primarily toward muscular strain reduction, enhancing the vital capacity of the lungs, and balancing the endocrine and central nervous systems are also practiced. With this system of yoga, physical exercises are simplified.

Iyengar Yoga

A type of yoga that uses props like blocks, straps, and chairs to help you move your body into the proper alignment.
Iyengar Yoga still holds a strong identity from its original form, which uses props, fixtures, specially designed therapy furniture, bolsters and blankets, these can often be found in purpose designed studios. The purpose props gently and repeatedly coerce the body into optimal alignment. The emphasis is on precise alignment in the pose, holding the position and building on strength and flexibility. It also has a therapeutic nature. People with exceptional strength sometimes practice Iyengar yoga to overcome stubborn muscular problems and misalignments.

Sivananda yoga

This is a system based on a five-point philosophy. This philosophy maintains that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking work together to form a healthy yogic lifestyle. Typically uses the same 12 basic asanas, bookended by sun salutations and savasana poses.

Ashtanga Yoga

If you think that yoga is not a workout, you haven’t tried an Ashtanga class. A series of poses, combined with a special breathing technique.
Ashtanga Yoga is a repetitive practice of a carefully constructed series of poses to develop strength, flexibility and agility. It does not consider props, instead intense daily practice is prescribed. The assumption is that the body will excel with enough dedicated practice and through the will of the mind, it is seen as a demanding routine with athletic qualities.

Kripalu yoga

This type teaches practitioners to know, accept, and learn from the body. A student of Kripalu learns to find their own level of practice by looking inward. The classes usually begin with breathing exercises and gentle stretches, followed by a series of individual poses and final relaxation.
Prenatal yoga
Prenatal yoga uses postures that practitioners have designed for people who are pregnant. It can support people in getting back into shape after pregnancy as well as supporting health iduring pregnancy.

Viniyoga yoga

Viniyoga is a personalised approach to yoga. It can be seen as similar to personal training, as it’s tailor-made to suit the individual’s needs, with regards to their age, gender, physical form, mental health and occupation. Its main objective is to assistant individuals to build on their practice and maximise on their potential. Viniyoga is a traditional approach developed by Desikacher, in the style of his father, Krishnamacharya, and includes chanting, pranayama and meditation. This equips the individual to manage and live with any personal challenges they may be facing, such as living with debilitating health conditions.

Power Yoga

As its name suggests, power yoga is a challenging style of yoga aimed at strength-building. These classes will include advanced poses and inversions like headstands and handstands that require a lot of strength.

Restorative yoga

This is a relaxing method of yoga. A person spends a restorative yoga class in four or five simple poses, using props like blankets and bolsters to sink into deep relaxation without exerting any effort in holding the pose.

Vinyasa Yoga (Flow Yoga)

A series of poses that flow smoothly into one another.
In Vinyasa Yoga, the practitioner goes through a series of poses, carefully flowing from one into another, the flow has a meditative effect, but it is also part of an energetic and graceful cardio routine.

Hot Yoga(bikram)

Bikram yoga or hot yoga is a set series of 26 poses performed in a room heated to 105 degrees, which is said to allow for deeper stretching and provide for a better cardiovascular workout. Unlike most yoga classes, Bikram classes are always done in rooms with mirrors. Hot yoga refers to any yoga class that is done in a heated room — generally from 80 to 100 degrees.

Yin Yoga

Looking for a new kind of stretching experience? Yin yoga is aimed at stretching the connective tissue around the pelvis, sacrum, spine and knees to promote flexibility. Poses are held for a longer amount of time in yin yoga classes, generally from three to five minutes. It is a quiet style of yoga, and will quickly show you how good you are at sitting still.

Acroyoga yoga

Acroyoga is influenced by acrobatics and gymnastics, it requires an athletic body or a body and mind with athletic potential. Regardless of whether or not you have the skills of an elite gymnast or expert acrobat, you’ll still be able to establish the foundations of new skills, which should allow you to push your body and physical capabilities to new limits.

Pranayama yoga

Pranayama combines the words ‘Prana’, referred to as the ‘life force’ and ‘Ayama’ which is outlined as ‘to lengthen or to work on it’. Your breathing and breathing techniques, play a pivotal part in maintaining and regulating your ‘Prana’, it enhances a person’s mindfulness, emotional wellbeing and mental health. Put simply, our mental health and the way we perceive things can be heavily influenced by our breathing techniques.

which areas does yoga affect in body?

Core: Yes. There are yoga poses to target just about every core muscle. Want to tighten those love handles? Then prop yourself up on one arm and do a side plank. To really burn out the middle of your abs, you can do boat pose, in which you balance on your “sit bones” (the bony prominences at the base of your pelvic bones) and hold your legs up in the air.
Arms: Yes. With yoga, you don’t build arm strength with free weights or machines, but with the weight of your own body. Some poses, like the plank, spread your weight equally between your arms and legs. Others, like the crane and crow poses, challenge your arms even more by making them support your full body weight.
Legs: Yes. Yoga poses work all sides of the legs, including your quadriceps, hips, and thighs.
Glutes: Yes. Yoga squats, bridges, and warrior poses involve deep knee bends, which give you a more sculpted rear.
Back: Yes. Moves like downward-facing dog, child’s pose, and cat/cow give your back muscles a good stretch. It’s no wonder that research finds yoga may be good for relieving a sore back.
Flexibility: Yes. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. With regular practice, they’ll improve your flexibility.
Aerobic: No. Yoga isn’t considered aerobic exercise, but the more athletic varieties, like power yoga, will make you sweat. And even though yoga is not aerobic, some research finds it can be just as good as aerobic exercise for improving health.
Strength: Yes. It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in a balanced pose. Regular practice will strengthen the muscles of your arms, back, legs, and core.
Sport: No. Yoga is not competitive. Focus on your own practice and don’t compare yourself to other people in your class.
Low-Impact: Yes. Although yoga will give you a full-body workout, it won’t put any impact on your joints.

how yoga can make me healthier?

Yoga is a great activity for you if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. It gives you strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness. You’ll also need to do something aerobic (like walking, biking, or swimming) if you’re not doing a fast-moving type of yoga.
If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart problems, ask your doctor what you can do. You may need to avoid certain postures, like those in which you’re upside down or that demand more balance than you have right now. A very gentle program of yoga, coupled with a light aerobic activity like walking or swimming, may be the best way to start.
Do you have arthritis? Yoga can help you stay flexible and strong without putting added stress on your joints. You get the added benefit of a mind-body approach that can help you relax and energize.
If you’re pregnant, yoga can help keep you relaxed, strong, and in shape. If you’re new to yoga or have any health or pregnancy related problems, talk to your doctor before you give it a try. Look for an instructor who’s experienced in teaching prenatal yoga.
You’ll need to make some adjustments as your baby and belly grow and your center of gravity shifts. After your first trimester, don’t do any poses that have you lying on your back. And don’t try to stretch any further than you did before pregnancy. Your pregnancy hormones will loosen up your joints and make you more likely to get injured.
While you’re pregnant, avoid postures that put pressure on your belly or low back. Don’t do “hot” yoga, where the room temperature is very high.

how to get started with yoga?

Classes usually range between 45 minutes and 1hr 30 minutes and as well as the different types of yoga out there, there are also many options to attend a beginner’s classes up to more advanced classes. Most teachers will also offer alternatives to more challenging postures to support beginner’s practice.
If your weekly schedule doesn’t allow to attend a class in a studio, home practice is a great way to start off – all you need is a mat, some comfy clothing and the right attitude.
YouTube has so many videos with various timings that allow you to practice in the comfort of your own home for an amount of time that fits in and works around you.

what could go wrong with yoga?

A word of caution about the incorrect practice of yoga is necessary at this point. With the many benefits may come injury for new practitioners of yoga or those doing it without proper instruction. Over 36 million Americans are reported to be practicing some form of yoga, and health care professionals are seeing injuries such as muscle and ligament sprains, neck and back pain, and cartilage tears.
Yoga is low-impact and safe for people when a well-trained instructor is guiding the practice.
Injury due to yoga is an infrequent barrier to continued practice, and severe injury due to yoga is rare. However, consider a few factors before starting.
Anyone who is pregnant or who has an on-going medical condition, such as high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica, should talk to their healthcare practitioner before practicing yoga. They may need to alter or avoid some yoga poses.
Beginners should avoid extreme poses and difficult techniques, such as headstand, lotus position, and forceful breathing.
When using yoga to manage a condition, do not replace conventional medical care with yoga or postpone seeing a healthcare provider about pain or any other medical problem.