Yoga for Athletes, Dancers, Martial artists and other Active individuals   
by: Vasanthi Bhat (

Active individuals are accustomed to using their bodies and muscles vigorously on a regular basis. Stretching and breathing exercises help people maintain their bodies and should be practiced in conjunction with strenuous activity. When regular stretching is neglected, the strenuous activity strains the muscles, joints, and tendons and accumulates in the body. This accumulated tension has forced many active people to give up their favorite sport or activity as a result of some type of injury or permanent damage.

Kokila Patel, a registered physical therapist explains how minimizing stretching negatively effects the body, and how truly vital it is in order to condition the body. "To perform well, the body needs to regularly go through its natural range of motion, keeping joints lubricated and muscles toned. For example, most lower back pain and injuries are directly related to tightness in the hip flexors, abductors, rotators, quadriceps, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles due to the lack of stretching and mobilization. This neglect often leads to back sprain, herniated disc, and sciatica. It is very important to athletes, injured performers, and others to stretch properly. Stretching should be gentle, easy, and pain-free..."

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 and endurance. Overall, yoga helps active people release the accumulated emotional and physical tension that is stored in the body as a result of daily stress and strain.

In addition to the these benefits, the gentle nature of yoga stretches make them perfect to utilize as preventive and healing measures for various injuries athletes frequently encounter. Most of the lower back pain and injuries active individuals experience are directly connected to tightness in the waist, hips, and legs. The combination of backward and forward bending postures along with hip-stretching poses are ideal for toning and strengthening this group of muscles.

For example, Achilles tendinitis(inflammation of the large tendon at the back of the heel) can be prevented by practicing the ankle flex, mountain pose, and hip stretches. An excellent preventive method for chondromalacia(softening of the cartilage under the knee cap), is stretching the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves by practicing forward bending and standing balancing poses. Similarly, other injuries such as plantar fascitis(inflammation of the tissue in the bottom of the foot) and shin splints (inflammation of tendons on the inside of the front lower leg) can be prevented or healed by utilizing the ankle and toe stretch, standing balancing poses and healing visualization techniques.

Students who are involved in active sports such as skiing, scuba diving, and weight lifting, assert that yoga has not only given them extra muscle conditioning and development beyond what their regular activities had provided them, but that it has also prevented the recurrence of old injuries. Yoga has and continues to allow them to be active individuals by improving their overall fitness and state of mind.