Yoga for sport – how and why to get started

This is a guest feature from Neilson Active Holidays. Neilson’s passion for lifestyle sports over the last 40 years has driven them to create an exciting range of summer and winter holidays for people who find the best way to relax is to switch off by doing something – learn more on neilson.co.uk.

Looking to build some strength and flexibility, recover and stretch better, or just add a bit of balance and zen to your training? Yoga might be the answer for you. Don’t be daunted at the prospect of contorting yourself into impossible poses- it’s super easy to get started and just about everyone can benefit from a little yoga in their lives.

So here are some common yoga questions answered, perhaps they will inspire you to get on the mat for the first time or practise more regularly.

Will yoga make me more flexible? And is it good for sports?

In a word, yes. When most people think of the benefits of yoga, improved flexibility is top of the list. Now we’re not necessarily talking about being able to bend yourself in half – you’re far better off taking things slow and at a pace that suits you. Over the weeks, though, you will notice gradual changes in how your muscles move and stretch.

Stretching out tight muscles not only feels amazing, but it also helps keep your body in its proper alignment, and that’s vital for keeping those annoying aches and pains at bay. If you’re sat at a desk all day, or frequently forget to stretch after a training session, you’ll know what we mean!

The benefits are even more clear if your training focuses on certain muscle groups. Cyclists, for example, can find themselves with tight, shortened leg muscles right from their ankles to their hip flexors. Balancing out all that power training with some controlled stretching is a great way to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Will yoga make me more flexible? And is it good for sports?

Does yoga improve posture?

Absolutely! Practicing the alignment of your body through a series of poses trains your posture, coordination, balance and proprioception (the sense of knowing the position and movement of body parts). This means your body will naturally adapt to these improvements, even when you’re not focusing in the yoga studio.

Better posture isn’t just about avoiding bad backs, strained necks, and niggling injuries. It also makes you more efficient at your sport. Meaning you can train better, and perform at the top of your game.

Does yoga improve posture?

Does yoga burn fat?

Most people think of yoga as a gentle exercise, and often you’re unlikely to burn the same number of calories you would in a full-on cardio workout. However, the controlled movements will be burning fat and building lean muscle, and certain styles of yoga like power yoga can be every bit as intensive as circuits or boxercise. 

Does yoga burn fat?

Types of yoga

There are several different types of yoga, some more energetic and demanding than others. Our favourites include:

•    Hatha – slow-paced, peaceful and perfect for beginners.

•    Ashtanga – popular, fast-flowing and an excellent workout.

•    Vinyasa or power yoga – similar to Ashtanga yoga but slightly more athletically demanding. This will really get your heart pumping.

•    Iyengar – plenty of focus on alignment and breathing, great if you’re recovering from an injury.

•    Kundalini – one of the more spiritually-focused forms. Expect lots of chanting and to work your body hard.

•    Bikram – otherwise known as ‘hot yoga’, classes take place in special heated rooms to help you sweat it out. Fantastic for stress relief.

•    Yin – gentle, meditative and slow, with many seated moves. 

Neilson yoga classes tend to include a few different forms to help you find the one that suits you best.
 

Types of yoga

Does yoga build muscle?

If you’re looking for bodybuilder-level biceps, you might want to look elsewhere to stack up the muscle, but yoga definitely plays a part. We’re talking core conditioning, muscle toning and creating long, lean muscle definition, which all helps!

By using your bodyweight yoga will build strength in a functional way. Ultimately, yoga achieves the balance between strength, better flexibility, posture and coordination in a way that strength training might not. 
 

Does yoga build muscle?

Any other benefits?

The sterotype of experience yogis as relaxed, calm people is no accident.

Stress surrounds us all in our hectic, modern lives, but yoga allows us carve out a space where we can relax, breath, and take a moment’s peace from our otherwise crazy lives. The results? Better sleep, a huge boost in mental wellbeing, and a reduction in stress-related symptoms affecting anything from skin to the digestive system. What’s not to like?

Any other benefits?

How can I get started?

A Neilson class is a good first step! Try it while you’re on holiday, then find a class once you get back home hooked on all that lovely zen.

There’s plenty of alternative moves given during our classes, so they really do suit all levels of abilities. Let your teacher know if you have any painful areas – such as a bad knee or lower back – and they will give you safe modifications of moves where necessary.

One of our favourite things about yoga is that it is a completely personal journey. There’s no competition, so take things slowly, go at your own pace and never push yourself to do moves that are just too painful to keep up with others. The key is to build strong foundations when it comes to working up to more impressive poses. 

All you need to do is bring along a bottle of water and some comfortable clothes that allow you to move and stretch freely. Mats, props and appropriately tranquil music will all be provided. 

What are you waiting for?

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