People ask me all the time about whether I believe yoga has contributed to my success as an ultrarunner and CrossFitter. The short answer: absolutely … but not for the reason most people think.
For the most part, people assume it’s the flexibility aspect of yoga that I credit. But in reality, I believe flexibility is HIGHLY overrated. What most athletes need isn’t necessarily more flexibility. Instead, I propose that mobility be the goal — it’s the ability to more your joints through their full and intended range of motion.
Here’s why: Athletes perform the same movements over and over again — this is how we become more efficient and capable of performing the specific movement patterns required by our respective sports. But all that repetition reinforces certain ranges of motion and limits others. Over time, if left unchecked, we develop imbalances and our joints are no longer able to move through a full range of motion. We get restricted and “locked down” and our bones are not properly aligned, making overuse injuries far more likely.
The problem really isn’t necessarily muscular flexibility, it’s more a function of how we’ve conditioned our connective tissues.
So if you’re one of those people who avoids yoga because you’re “not flexible”, it’s time to let that one go. The idea is to move your body in ways that are different from what you normally do so that you can maintain your ability to move and the full function of your joints as you age.
If you’re interested in learning more about the application and benefits of yoga for athletes, I’ve got several upcoming offerings for you in Maryland (look under the “In-Person Events” tab). And if you’re not local to me, no worries – you can take a class with me anytime and anywhere by going to my Yoga for Durability channel on Vimeo.
Also, if you’re looking for a lovely weekend getaway, I’ll be assisting my amazing teacher Sage Rountree at a 3-Day Yoga for Athletes Retreat this coming January 26-28 at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts — hope to see you there!