Yoga Enhancement to Sport

Mar 15, 2019 | Advice | 0 comments

I got talked into going to my first Ashtanga Yoga class by my daughter Lucy. She hadn’t passed her driving test, was home from University and she was missing her weekly yoga fix. I am a fit Quadrathlete (swim, kayak, bike run) who trains hard, a keen gym-goer, regular to Pilates and Stretch classes, plus a coach in fitness classes, triathlon and kayaking. I thought it would be easy and that I would be quite good at it… How wrong I was!

I was humbled to find myself struggling with the poses and not as flexible as I thought, couldn’t balance and I wasn’t even sure this was going to be enjoyable every week! However my daughter (completely hooked) convinced me, I would improve and it would help my training if I continued. As a veteran athlete, any small gains are worth it, and she did need a lift every week so I decided to persevere!

It was after about 6 weeks I started to notice how yoga had begun to enhance my training. My body felt more flexible, loosening tight muscles after intense training sessions allowing my body to move more smoothly in my four disciplines.

Practising the postures encourages me to use full range of motion, which again helps with my flexibility. The standing poses are especially good for strengthening and stabilizing the muscles of the lower leg whilst stretching the hip muscles, this combination will hopefully lead to greater power and strength. I still struggle with the single-leg standing poses, but I hope to improve my breathing and use my breath to find my inner strength to enable me to balance better.

I have a strong core due to years of training, but since starting yoga I certainly now feel I have a much greater awareness of how important it is, to engage these muscles whilst performing in my various disciplines. I feel my swimming has become much stronger as I’m flatter, smoother and longer enabling my body to glide through the water more efficiently. Whilst kayaking, I hold my core strong and back straight, improving my rotation giving me more power as I pull the paddle through the water. Whilst in an aero position on the bike, drawing my shoulders down my back and engaging the core, enables me to keep strong in a horizontal position. This lets me push more power through the glutes and quad muscles giving me a strong fluid bike ride. The final discipline is the run, where flexibility and strength in the hamstrings and hip flexors are key to a good performance.

Engaging and releasing the hamstring muscles through concentric and eccentric contractions, which we do in many of our poses has certainly helped fire my hamstrings to perform better. I’ve noticed these improvements whilst running up and down hills when they are under much more stress. All these are big positives from my Ashtanga class, which I can feel in my body, posture and performance.

I still have many more steps to improve beyond the physical flexibility and strength. The aspect I still find difficult is the breathing, the letting go, the visualization and the concentration of the mind. Being an endurance athlete you need all these mental strengths, I am hoping to be able to improve these, so it will help me focus more and keep calm in the long challenging events where my body is pushed beyond its limits.

My daughter Lucy has now passed her driving test and doesn’t need a lift, but I feel it has now become an important part of my training regime. I feel the gains are already enhancing my training and with my race season about to start any improvements have got to be a bonus, especially as a veteran athlete!

Submitted by

Jean Ashley

GB Quadrathlon Team