Although the tweet that accompanies the photo “
@DeronWilliams Caught coach K working on his yoga before practice! #dedication” has a a gotcha vibe, I for one am not at all surprised. The amount of pressure the coaches and athletes are under to bring home gold is immense and yoga is a perfect remedy.
Most yogis know a well rounded yoga practice can improve flexibility, strength, and balance, but more importantly for olympians that train intensely hours daily, yoga can help resolve emotional baggage and develop the mental stamina to compete on the Olympic stage.
Many Olympic athletes are pretty tight lipped about their specific training routines, to try and create an edge over their rivals, however some have opened up about the importance of yoga in their preparation for London 2012!
Betsey Armstrong, US Water Polo, won the silver medal at Beijing. But according to her people are always “surprised to know that I am an avid yoga attendee.”
image via Getty Images
Evelyn Stevens, who rides on the Specialized – lululemon team, likes that frequent power yoga classes (like at The Green Yogi) improve her core strength and balance, both critical to cycling. When traveling she practices using yoga podcasts in her hotel rooms.
image via Epicimages
Swimmer Rebecca Soni is also a yoga enthusiast. Already an Olympic medalist, Soni won a gold and two silvers in 2008, she recently started taking yoga classes to improve flexibility in her shoulders and back. “I think my body is much better aligned as a result of my yoga work, which is an advantage in the pool.” She also likes that yoga can help her recover from her intense pool workouts.
image via ksdk.com
Fellow swimmer, 22 year old Ariana Kukors, who is the world record holder in the 200 Individual Medley, began doing Bikram yoga with her mom while still in high school. Kukors has found that yoga improves her body awareness, which in turn improves her swimming.
image via nbcolympics
Better body awareness and relaxation are also mentioned by gymnast Rebecca Bross as two benefits she enjoys from practicing yoga. Bross, who is coming back from a knee injury, has been enhancing her gymnastic training with weekly hatha yoga classes for years.
photo via examiner.com
Aside from all the physical advantages of yoga, cyclist Stevens finds pranayama (breath) and visualization to be paramount for her race prep. Stevens says “I always finish my yoga practice feeling calmer, mentally stronger, and with a smile.” Kukors also believes the primary benefit for her competitive performance is mental. Yoga “teaches you to block out the distraction from the outside world and really become in tune with how you are feeling. I think being able to center myself and retreat into my own little world is the best thing I’ve taken away from yoga.”
I love the Olympics and I’m excited to see so many athletes embracing this awesome practice!