Yoga is not just about stretching and flexibility. In fact all the people I’ve worked with who made gains in their flexibility allowing them better range of motion in their sport or life actually went away with other benefits they were not expecting! These things they have actually appreciated more than the increase in flexibility; things such as better breath control, better endurance, better focus, better sleep patterns, learning how to relax, and many many more.
A key benefit of yoga applied properly into sports training is injury prevention. However it is often overlooked because IF the athlete is introduced to the techniques BEFORE they are seriously injured often they won’t experience injury to the same extent, if at all. That is unless someone stops the techniques! I see this a lot in runners with overuse injuries when they think they are “fixed”, stop the techiques only to have the symptoms of overuse injury re-occur.
Yoga teaches you to connect with your body and be aware of it in no other way. This is important in injury prevention; not ignoring the niggles until it is too late, respecting if you don’t put the work in you won’t get the best out (and I mean the work on your yoga techniques!) and that your body or mind is not a machine - as a living dynamic organism it needs to recuperate and recharge, and often athletes are the very people who need to LEARN to do this properly.
There is nothing worse than an injured athlete especially if it is before an event. Grumpy, in pain, feeling like their huge efforts may be thwarted…it is completely understandable. If your sport is your life then is devastating to face this potential limitation. All too often they drive ahead and then come out with irreparable damage (I did this when I was younger and have a serious permanent weakness in my ankle from doing so) So better to prevent in the first place but, if not, then rehabilitating through yoga is also excellent.
The beauty of using yoga in rehabilitation is that it can help restructure the training to accommodate the injury and teach understanding of what not to put under stress. Great gains can be made in rehabilitation in areas where the athlete may not have considered before because they, or to be fair, their coach was obsessed with one direction, one training regime or one technique-set to exact. Of course it is also key that the coach (yoga or otherwise) is not babying or overpushing the athlete in either direction.
I’d say any yoga is better than none but there are many injuries caused through yoga itself through poor teaching and not taking into account the individuals sporting requirements and stresses. Make sure you are working with someone who understands your sport and preferably checks your individual body alignment. And always get a formal diagnosis on the injury.
At Yoga Sports Science™ we use a methodology that has been developed over 8 years, this allows a format that works and also has given us data as evidence that it does. It is really heartening to see others scientifically testing the benefits of yoga (such as the recent study on yoga helping lower back pain) in proper studies as well. Part of the reason that I got involved with Yoga Sports Science is their methodical approach and their results and this has really been evidenced with the feedback I receive and the results my clients get.