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July 22, 2019

CC / Abiola Akanni

If you hike, bike or run you’ve experienced some level of stiffness throughout your body. You can foam roll these areas till the cows come home or you could try yoga! 

Outdoor recreational activities require as much mental stamina as they do physical, for that reason yoga is the perfect match for these sports. Studies have shown that yoga not only improves flexibility and endurance to help keep you injury free, it also decreases stress and enhances mental focus for those ‘mind over matter’ moments. 

Here are 5 reasons why yoga is the perfect practice to pair with your next hike, run or bike race! 

  1. Breathing 

CC / Mathew Henry

Pranayama or breath is the foundation of yoga. Not only does deep breathing take the body out of fight or flight mode, it also improves muscle elasticity. 

When you breath, your muscles do as well. As you inhale your diaphragm contracts, as you exhale new blood runs through your system, repairing muscle fibers and building resilience. With every inhale and exhale you become more aware of what’s taking place within and around you, ultimately drawing you into the present moment. Slower, lengthened breathing can also assist with long distance activities, training your breath to remain relaxed while your intensity increases to reduce performance anxiety.

  1. Improved Mobility 

CC / Mathew Henry

Healthy, well greased joints are the fountain of youth, however overexertion causes the tendons and cartilage between the joints to wear down. Because yoga places an emphasis on spine, sacrum, hip, knee and ankle alignment during both static and dynamic postures, it encourages optimal mobility in the joints. The slow, heat-building postures that string a yoga sequence together warm up the body and provide time for the muscles to fully expand and contract. In doing so the muscles relax and joint tension eases. Not only will this prevent injury while you train, it’ll increase the range of motion in your body overall – can you say loose and limber! 

  1. Mental Clarity 

CC / Mathew Henry

You may have heard the term “your thoughts are things” and an excess of redundant, invalidating thoughts can draw unpleasant “things” into our realties. The meditative aspects of yoga relax the mind so you can focus on what you’re feeling at that moment as opposed to rummaging through a to-do list of thoughts. In any performance related activity this type of mental clarity will help keep you aware and calm despite what lies ahead. 

  1. Reflection vs Reaction 

CC / Mathew Henry

Let’s face it, type A personalities dominate recreational sports. We like a challenge and we like to win. However in yoga there’s no grand prize for finishing first or striking the best pose. Unlike most sports which esteem quick reflexes, yoga promotes ‘slow response’ or reflection over reaction. The idea is that reflection garners more mindfulness and allows you to become aware of your emotional state before responding to a situation. Agility is key when you stumble on a bed of loose rocks along your hike, yet an insightful reaction is going to keep you in the game longer. 

  1. De-Stress 

CC / Brodie Vissers

The miracle solution behind yoga is its ability to de-stress the mind and body.
High levels of cortisol, “the so-called stress hormone,” are said to lead to a spike in blood pressure, inflammation and even weight gain. However, a study held by George Brainard, M.D., a professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson Medical College found a significant drop in cortisol levels after yoga. The findings suggest that a consistent yoga practice can normalize cortisol levels that are either too high or too low for a multitude of patients. What’s the secret? It’s the deep breathing that brings fresh oxygen and blood to the muscles and organs, tempering the bodies ‘fight or flight’ response and bringing it to a state of balance. That’s a win, win for your next hike and workday!

Ok, so now that you know why yoga is your perfect match where do you go? We suggest researching studios in your area offering Intro Series or trying free online yoga videos on YouTube to beat the crowds and practice in the comfort of your own home. Remember, go at your own pace and don’t forget to breath!

By Abiola Akanni

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