The practice of yoga has existed for thousands of years, originating in India from the ancient sages.  It has has evolved over the centuries and has become westernised only over the last few decades, making it easier to adapt into our modern lifestyles.

There are many aspects to yoga, of which pranayama (breathing) and asana (postures) are probably the most common and, indeed, the fundamental concept of yoga is movement combined with the breath.

Today we find that yoga not only enhances our body and mind but is also beneficial in cross training with sports such as running, cycling and climbing. Competitors from the recent winter Olympics have discovered that incorporating yoga into their training programmes reverses the effects of their often one dimensional exercise regimes. 

We know that exercise is good for us however there is no doubt that its repetitive nature can tighten muscles and joints, which will have an adverse effect on the body over time.   These tightening muscles pull on the tendons and fascia tissue, putting us at more risk of injury.  Therefore by regularly practicing yoga alongside our athletic programmes, we can balance out the negative effects, lengthening and strengthening muscles and joints, engaging muscles that we would not normally use.  Yoga also provides focus, allowing us to come away from the chatter of our busy minds and connect with our bodies.

Posture, flexibility and lung capacity can all be improved.  By lengthening hamstrings and quads, not only can we eventually increase our stride, but we can relieve tightness deep in our hip joints, relieving niggling back pain.  We know that runners can often feel lighter on their feet after practicing hip opening asanas.  They work our iliopsoas muscles – hip flexors – and can provide a greater range of motion.

The same principles apply to enhancing the training programmes of cyclists, golfers and hill walkers.  

Climbers for example, who are prone to tight upper back and neck muscles (trapezius muscles) through activities such as belaying for extended periods, are finding that yoga fits perfectly with their training.  Also and possibly more importantly, yoga teaches ‘non-attachment’ which allows the mind to drop any worries and “what ifs” and fully exist in the present moment, providing climbers with the tools to negotiate and overcome difficult obstacles and moves they will often encounter.

Yoga has something for everyone and is proving to be a new and intelligent way of providing low impact cross training for athletes.