[Image credit: MindBodyGreen / RichRoll.com]

An article by Ultraman World Champion Rich Roll has gone viral – for good reason. Here’s a recap of Roll’s top reasons why every athlete – and, in fact, every human being – should do yoga (find the full story on MindBodyGreen).

No. 1: Improved Strength

No matter what your sport, a regular yoga practice will help you build strength and improve lean muscle mass. According to Roll (who swims, cycles and runs), yoga has enhanced his core body stability and strengthened the “supportive but otherwise under-developed muscles surrounding the more utilized muscles, creating a more balanced and optimally functional overall strength.”

No. 2: Better Balance

Calling his previous sense of balance “horrible,” Roll credits yoga with improving his balance and co-ordination. But why would this matter to an athlete? “Better balance and co-ordination means enhanced control over how I use my body, which in turn leads to better technique and form,” he explains.

No. 3: Increased Flexibility

Yoga improves joint and muscle pliancy, translating to greater range of motion or “an increase in the performance latitude for a particular movement or series of movements.” A swimmer with supple shoulder and hip joints can, for example, capture and pull more water, resulting in more forward movement per stroke (not to mention enhanced muscle economy). “The more I work to maintain my flexibility [which wanes with age] the less likely I am to suffer an overuse injury,” Roll stresses.

No. 4: Mental Control

The physical benefits of yoga for athletes are huge – but they’re nothing compared with the mental rewards. Sure, yoga will tighten your core, flatten your tummy and tone your butt. But for Roll, it’s the meditative aspect of class that’s magic.

Traditionally, he explains, the physical postures were designed to prepare body and mind to reap maximum benefit from the meditation that follows (aka savasana), where we get a chance to centre our focus and establish a sense of inner peace. When it comes to athletic ability, Roll observes that the mind makes all the difference.

“The champion athlete most likely has enhanced dominion over his/her thoughts … able to … focus entirely on the task at hand and remain thoroughly rooted in the present moment without the invasion of unhelpful thought patterns. [He/she can] visualize success so completely that it literally becomes a foregone conclusion.”

Our own ultra-athlete, Jason Loutitt, makes the same point in his post about Bikram Yoga and distance running: “The spiritual power of … letting go of my thoughts ties directly into my potential as a runner.”

Athlete or not, yoga can train your mind to stay present and focused on the task at hand, greatly improving your chances for success in all aspects of life. “Consistent practice of the asanas, when followed up with proper savasana, is the best way I have found to not only improve my sleep, reduce stress, quell negative mental chatter and manage … fear, it … has made all the difference in helping me achieve some rather fantastical athletic goals that seemed not only far beyond my capabilities, but almost impossible.”

No. 5: True Love

Roll’s top reason to practise is also his most personal – he met his wife in yoga class. “Don’t underestimate the extent to which yoga can change your life,” he says. “You just never know.”

Roll maintains a consistent practice to excel in his athletic pursuits. What are your top reasons for doing yoga? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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