Older athletes have accomplished a lot during their lifetime, but they are far from throwing in the towel. Many of them have discovered yoga and how it supports physical and psychological elements that formal athletic training doesn’t tackle. What other miracles can it do for the body and mind, you wonder?
Yoga changes all athletes for the better, especially the mature ones, as it extends longevity and potential. It builds strength and resistance while extending one’s range of motion and restoring balance. It provides excellent cross-training for ageing athletes of all sports.
Yoga helps athletes develop better breathing techniques while simultaneously improving their core strength, equilibrium, flexibility, and endurance. Continue reading to find out the many other ways it makes athletes better at what they do.
Objectives of Yoga
The goals of yoga are the same, regardless of style. For practitioners to feel better about themselves, cultivate resilience and perform to the best of their ability. To attain these objectives, yoga instructors match postures to achieve balance, revamp body mechanics, and improve health and wellness. In many ways, yoga is a powerful form of preventive medicine.
Why Yoga Is Valuable to Mature Athletes
Fitness experts recommend mature athletes take advantage of yoga’s far-reaching benefits. These include stress relief, intellectual focus, and pain reduction. A consistent yoga practice contributes to a surge in strength, mobility, and concentration. It heightens physiological and cognitive capacity, boosting athletic performance. Many professional trainers have already integrated yoga into their athletes’ training regimens for its many advantages.
Jonny Kest is the international director of Life Time’s Life Power Teacher Training program. He says that strong but inflexible bodies become rigid, while flexible but weak ones become unstable. So ageing athletes need to make sure they cultivate both strength and flexibility for longevity and performance in any athletic endeavour.
Yoga is a meditation of motion, linking mind and body via breathing and movement. Since athletes have started engaging in it, more people are studying its physical aspects and endorsing these. The athletic angle may not accurately portray or explain the full essence of yoga, but it shows that it is beneficial for the body. Studies have shown that even just passive stretching in yoga amplifies energy, augments muscle function, and enhances flexibility.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga makes people better athletes as it integrates the mind-body connection into skills training. A regular yoga practice advances sports-related skills and promotes overall fitness. So it forms a valuable part of an athlete’s training regimen and has many biological rewards.
Yoga teaches athletes to breathe correctly. Breathing impacts performance. Deep, relaxed breathing reduces performance anxiety and elevates concentration levels.
Yoga strengthens one’s core. Yoga’s un-rushed, targeted movements fortify a powerful midsection. Isometric activities add a novel form of resistance training to equipment-based workouts.
Range of Motion
Yoga extends one’s range of motion. This is achieved through slow, steady flexibility exercises, which also relieve muscle tension. An expansive range of motion improves athletic performance.
Most sports and weight-training regimens develop some muscle groups while bypassing others. So, use yoga to integrate balance exercises into your training regimen. These are some of the most effective ways to fix issues in body mechanics and muscle imbalance. Yoga corrects these disparities.
It’s an effective adjunct to cross-training. Athletes engaging in the same exercise regimen or sport throughout the year need cross-training. This means engaging in two or more exercises or sports to improve performance in the primary sport.
Yoga has hundreds of postures to diversify any fitness routine. Although yoga can be performed at a high or low intensity, it is a brilliant low-impact method for cross-training. New exercises add interest and banish training boredom. It minimises injury and aids in recovery from intense workouts.
Yoga creates a youthful countenance. Not by zapping wrinkles but by developing healthy joints with an extensive range of motion. Powerful muscles, a robust spine, sturdy limbs, and fortified balance to prevent falls. Yoga is just as effective as cardio or aerobic workouts in increasing collagen production. It improves oxygen/blood/nutrient circulation—crucial in reversing the signs of ageing.
Performance and Recovery Aid
Repetitive movements (usually in only one range of motion) associated with many sports help you get better at them. But they also cause imbalance and wear and tear that leads to injury and discomfort. This goes against the principle of the body being engineered for balance.
Erin Taylor, the author of Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes, suggests cross-training to compel the body to adopt different ranges of motion. Taylor also designed a program to correct the body’s imbalances through focused yoga routines.
Research on yoga for athletes and applications customising it for them usually focus on the physiological benefits. This inadvertently diminishing the intellectual rewards. The researchers take for granted that these mental benefits are indispensable to athletes, especially those advancing in age.
These boost athletic performance through intensified focus and a greater capacity to handle the psychological demands of competition and rigorous training. It aids in recovery through relaxation and stress relief—an advantage in any competitive field.
Revitalises Energy System
Physical practice and pranayama (breath regulation) increase vibrancy and energy levels. Meditation brings tranquility and self-acceptance.
Age brings with it reduced activity levels. Older athletes care less about changing events or themselves. However positive, this attitude may bring about depression or regret. Yoga saves them from prolonged exposure to these emotions by boosting morale. This encourages them to stay active and care for their health. Yoga also helps them transition from competitive sports to recreational ones.
Most athletes stay in competitive sports for as long as possible, while others are forced to retire early due to injuries. Incapacity and advancing age can be immensely demotivating. Many become despondent when they can no longer engage in their beloved sports. Yoga is the best way to boost flailing spirits. By helping disconsolate athletes maintain healthy bodies, it brings them to a stable mental state.
Path to Self-discovery
If you are dissatisfied with your current athletic strategy, maybe it’s time to do some introspection. Yoga will help you discover more about yourself and direct you to the path you are meant to take.
Athletic Groups Doing Yoga
Multitudes of professional athletes whose careers depend on superior health have turned to yoga to remain in tip-top shape. The Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Clippers are just a couple of the many pro teams that have recruited yoga instructors to train their players.
Even Olympic skiers and tennis professionals cite yoga as the reason for their optimal focus, balance, and flexibility. Yoga has indeed broken into mainstream professional sports. Even recreational athletes have joined the yogic circle.
Types of Yoga for Mature Athletes
Yoga styles have quite a wide range. There are slow-paced practices with prolonged postures. These are ideal for rigorous strength training and balanced workouts. A more energetic posture switching, results in a vigorous aerobic routine. Below are some more details on the styles for mature athletes.
Vinyasa refers to breath-supported movement. It is a fast-paced series of postures with a constant flow of movement. Athletes who have trouble slowing down will appreciate this active style. It encourages yogis to push their boundaries safely but allows them to back off when needed. Athletes used to going beyond their limits will find this retreating action challenging because it goes against their fundamental training.
Man Flow Yoga
Man Flow Yoga is an online training program. It combines a short series of slow, controlled yoga poses with solid fitness-training fundamentals. It alleviates chronic pain and other symptoms of a sedentary lifestyle. Dean Pohlman, its creator, has attracted many older athletes wanting to get back into shape.
Commonly known as Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga takes place in rooms heated to 105°F (40.55°C) at 40% humidity. Each class calls for holding the same two breathing exercises and 26 postures. Practitioners focus on engaging muscles and being still (instead of the usual breath-motion combo) by holding single poses for lengthy periods. One of this style’s benefits is mental conditioning.
Sage Rountree is the author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga. She doesn’t recommend Bikram for athletes because she doesn’t believe in combining hot yoga with serious athletic training. She claims the heat hinders the recovery of semi-dehydrated and exhausted athletes. Heat makes their condition worse and limits the range of postures they can hold.
It also encourages hyper-flexibility, which derails training. Rountree says all athletes need some degree of stiffness to be efficient runners.
Yin Yoga and ROMWOD
Yin (a Japanese form of yoga mixed with aspects of traditional Chinese medicine) and the martial arts form the foundation of the ROMWOD (Range of Motion Workout of the Day) online video service. It is a passive, slow-paced type of restorative yoga that applies gentle pressure to the joints and stretches connective tissues to invigorate acupressure points.
ROMWOD’s slow breathing and prolonged singular posture hold benefit athletes because these soothe the nervous system. The three to five-minute poses allow stretching to go deeper, reaching the joints, ligaments, and fascia (fibrous tissue covering a muscle or organ).
This style of yoga presents a whole-body stretch and workout. It is like Power Yoga in that classes follow six specific basic to complex sequences, each one a powerful posture. Ashtanga’s repetitive classes allow practitioners to monitor their progress and identify daily bodily changes.
Athletes will appreciate Ashtanga because it targets muscle groups that aren’t used much in sports. However, trainers don’t recommend it to athletes undergoing rehab because the postures are intense, even at the basic level.
This style is appropriate for those who value the importance of technique, physical awareness, and prevention of long-term injury. Injured athletes will appreciate Iyengar because it’s safe and offers hands-on guidance by teachers who have undergone six years of dedicated study.
Iyengar’s focus is on motion stability and proper alignment. Teachers help students find the correct posture (sometimes with props) before proceeding to advanced ones. They teach students anatomy, functional movement patterns, and how to mobilise body parts. These skills are invaluable for mature athletes. It helps them endure strenuous activities and manage pain.
The founder of Iyengar Yoga, the late BKS Iyengar. He was included in Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. The Indian guru, who introduced yoga to the West, was 95 years old when he died. One of the best proponents of graceful ageing, he practised yoga vigorously until the end.
Master Iyengar acquired a supreme level of flexibility to which most people could only aspire. His life is proof that getting older does not mean you have to be resigned to a frail existence. One of his famous quotes was, “You are as old as your spine is flexible.”
Aging athletes will benefit from this yoga discipline as it intensifies the extent of athletic pursuits. The four fundamental goals of life in Tantric yoga are artha (success), kama (pleasure), dharma (path), and moksha (freedom). The Tantric formula for success and enlightenment is through enjoyment. Tantric yoga athlete practitioners apply this principle to succeed in their chosen sports.
Kundalini is spiritual, meditative yoga, focusing on the mind more than the body. Its classes combine movement and dynamic breathing instead of postures done separately from breathwork. Kundalini yogis concentrate on the release of energy located at the base of the spine.
Students, while wearing all white, chant, breathe, and meditate. Sports trainers may not view it as an appropriate training supplement since the focus is on the spiritual. But mature athletes will benefit from it in terms of developing internal tranquillity and mental focus. Both are essential in high levels of physical performance.
Sessions in this branch of yoga last longer than others. A class typically runs between 45 and 90 minutes long. Hatha Yoga strengthens the primary muscles to support the body during the ageing process. This style uses slow movements to galvanise muscle functions.
In this style, yogis hold poses either sitting on a chair or standing with a chair for support. Chair Yoga consists of modified Hatha Yoga poses to suit mature adults (including athletes) with restricted mobility but want their blood circulation at a healthy level. Yogis do breathing exercises while holding postures that successively increase ranges of motion in various parts of the body.
Ageing athletes will enjoy this easy yoga technique. During sessions, you sit up straight in a comfortable position on a cushion or chair, hands lightly resting on your knees. Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly through the nose. This action calms the mind.
Place one hand on the lower part of your stomach and the other on your ribs. Slowly inhale and exhale, feeling the rise and fall of your breath. Relax your mind and enjoy being in the moment. You can do this exercise with music at home, before bedtime, to create a relaxed setting for sleep.
Mature athletes will benefit from a pranayama element called controlled breathing—emptying the lungs after exhaling or keeping it full after inhaling for several seconds. This brings about different responses from yogis. Some may have difficulty sitting down. Others may feel a void but are willing to welcome the novel and the undefined. Still, others may struggle with letting go and allowing themselves to feel complete.
Cardiovascular activities need adequate air circulation. Yoga breathwork, which involves being fully aware of oxygen delivery via the lungs, works, whether it produces genuine cardiovascular benefits on exertion or not. When athletes master breathwork, they will distinguish between panic and an actual lack of air, giving them the capability to push themselves to higher exertion levels.
Yoga for Balance
Yoga specifically meant for balance improvement is vital. It is not just for older athletes but also for the general population advancing in age. It keeps people agile and reduces the risk of tumbles and falls. Yoga lends its practitioners spatial awareness.
Balancing yoga shouldn’t be confined to the studio or fitness center. Trainers encourage bringing balance exercises to the home by incorporating the postures into one’s daily routine, such as during tooth-brushing.
Worn out and exhausted older athletes have a lot to gain from restorative yoga. It magnifies mindfulness and consolidates it with each body movement. Yogis observe stillness and execute prolonged gentle movements to balance their physical and psychological disposition.
Restorative yoga postures are prolonged but restful, gentle, and assisted by props. Teachers are on hand to guide students. The focus is on calming the mind and body rather than deep stretching and athletic workouts. So this type of yoga suits people who are stressed out or overwhelmed with immense mental chatter.
However, driven but exhausted athletes can benefit from this style as long as they regard it as a relaxing activity instead of a workout. Older women athletes also benefit from this type of yoga because it addresses mood variations and shifts in energy levels.
If you want to try something similar, try Shannon Paige’s Anjali restorative yoga classes, where she encourages students to lie still, be quiet, face their emotions and thoughts, and recall positive things about themselves.
Yoga for Recovery
Yoga can help ageing athletes in their recovery through the following ways:
- Participate in a restorative yoga class during a rest day in between vigorous workout days. The same class can be used as a cool-down routine after a strenuous workout. The relaxation gap between intense workouts like Vinyasa or Bikram Yoga helps an athlete’s concentration, balance, and gait.
- Pranayama (breath regulation through yoga) exercises the lungs. It also regulates the heart rate (an essential fitness measuring standard). Additionally it increases lean muscle mass and bone density.
- Achieve emotional stability through a steady yoga practice. Consistency helps the mature athlete stay in the middle ground when it comes to handling success and failure.
- Use yoga to get in tune with your body to prevent injury. Learn to listen to your body to determine where imbalance or limitation is present.
- Mature cyclists and runners can benefit from yogic stretching before and after a race. Stretches soothe the mind and tempers the adrenaline charge, so it doesn’t turn into panic or distress.
How To Get Started With Yoga as a Mature Athlete
Many hardcore athletes resist yoga because of stereotypes. Others, who erroneously think they have to be elastic mutants to engage in it, avoid it out of intimidation. However, if you’re an older athlete committed to maintaining fitness and prolonging your longevity, you will reap numerous benefits by at least trying it.
- Delete this expression from your vocabulary: “I am too old to…”
- Watch and follow instructional DVDs.
- Read books. We recommend Sage Rountree’s Yoga for Aging Athletes. Another is 64-year-old Christine Felstead’s Yoga for Runners. She is the founder of Yoga for Runners Teacher Training and the leading authority on yoga for endurance athletes. Her website offers runners resources for injury prevention, pain management, and athlete health.
- Peruse blogs. Alexandra DeSiato co-writes the Yoga for Aging Athletes blog with Rountree. DeSiato offers a novel yoga approach to healthy aging. She views yoga as a tool to address aging, injury, and illness. She believes that the best yoga practice is one arising from deep introspection
- Search for a yoga style and a certified instructor that suits you. Many personal trainers who teach yoga are not certified.
- Attend yoga classes specifically for athletes. Choose according to your purpose. For recovery, pick gentle yoga, Yin, or restorative yoga. For cross-training, choose the faster-paced Vinyasa.
- To focus on your chosen sport, choose classes geared toward a speciality, such as running. An example is Felstead’s Yoga for Runners. Her online courses have temporarily replaced her pre-pandemic drop-ins. Also, join her live Instagram Story and YouTube channel classes. The latter suits those who want to practice at their own pace.
No one can stay at the prime of their youth forever. Old age creeps in, eventually, not sparing athletes. Reduction in sporting activities, diminishing energy levels, demotivation, and depression are only some of the elements that accompany ageing. Fear not because yoga rescues mature athletes. It’s an excellent way for them to remain fit, extend longevity, and slow down the ageing process.
Supplement your athletic workouts with yoga to reap its physical and psychological benefits. We hope that through yoga, you will find solace from the negative aspects of ageing and redemption through the unification of body, mind, and spirit.