In the news in the past few years, we’ve heard NFL football players, pro golfers and stars of the NBA speak out about why they have turned to yoga in order to enhance their performance on the field, the golf course and on the court. According to pros, yoga is a great way to cross-train for a variety of sports, including running, surfing, swimming, skiing, cycling, and hiking.

We have some of our own active folks here in Petaluma that agree with the pros. Stephen Mori, in his twenties, thirties and into his forties did many endurance events from running to cycling. He began to feel his knees complain about the wear and tear from the repetitive physics of these activities. He describes a general experience of being out of kilter. Now in his fifties, he has returned to yoga to enhance his physical balance, so that he can “continue cycling and running into the decades to come”. He says “I didn’t expect that yoga would become central to how I spend my discretionary recreational time. I find the benefits, not just in the physical sphere, but also for the psychological and emotional components. Yoga has taken on a life of it’s own central to my life affecting and benefiting my approach and outlook to both my personal and work life.”

Diana Gushulak, a local bodyworker here in town shared this with me “My family and I are active kayakers.  My years of taking yoga classes, has helped me to be more flexible in my body rotation; and my paddling stroke is more comfortable and more efficient.” And Cathy Fox, you all may know from her years as a head cook from a restaurant here in Petaluma, articulates,” The benefits of yoga have helped me physically in the pursuit of my passion for nature and hiking by keeping my legs strong and flexible and it has also taught me how to breathe when climbing over mountains.  Mentally yoga has changed my approach to hiking from thinking of the trail as a treadmill at the gym, to one of being in tune and present with my surroundings and with myself on the path.”

Cathy brings up the breathing component of yoga that is a huge assistance in the dynamic, athletic related activities. In yoga you develop the ability to use deep, relaxed breathing even when exerting a lot of effort and rigor. When you are able to maintain the even relaxed breathing, your nervous system responds in a way that keeps you from triggering the stress response in the body, which allows you to stay out of a state of anxiety and pressure. It enhances your performance, endurance and concentration.

One challenging part of yoga for athletes and active people can be the shift in the mind from competition and pushing limits, to one of just observing, not pushing, and accepting things as they are, even your tight hamstrings, if that is the case. The yoga practice will ask you to be patient and give time to the process of stretching out the shortened contracted hamstrings that you may have overdeveloped.

My very favorite saying (I wish I remembered where I first heard it) is “Strength without flexibility is rigidity, and flexibility without strength is instability” True fitness is having a balance between both. Mori points to that in his statement when he shares how his yoga has influenced his personal and work life as well.

Yoga helps keep joints mobile and moving freely, reduces muscle tension, promotes circulation, prevents injuries, prevents compression in bones, and increases mental alertness, just to name a few of it’s wonderful benefits. I hope you recognize the advantage of adding yoga into your life’s activities and that we’ll see you in class soon. Thanks Stephen, Kathy and Diana!