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Yoga helps improve flexibility

Q: I read Shaquille O’Neal is doing yoga. What are benefits of yoga for an athlete?
A: When I look at fitness and training, there are five components that need to be incorporated in a balanced workout program:
– Cardiovascular
– Strength
– Endurance
– Flexibility
– Body composition
Flexibility is one that gets pushed aside quickly and easily, even though flexibility is as important as the other four components. I used to see it in my classes; as soon as we would start stretching, some people would get up and leave. I would say, “You need to stretch.”
“I will,” they would say as they were leaving the room. Are they going to stretch in the car? You know as well as I do that they are not going to stretch. Most people do not take the time to stretch.
The great part of a “mainstream” yoga class is it can be attended by people of all ages and fitness levels. Whether it is chair yoga, power yoga or Bodyflow, I have seen athletes as well as people with disabilities attend some sort of yoga classes.
Streamline yogis, or people who do yoga mainly for strength, flexibility, and balance, are satisfied with the physical health and vitality the exercise develops and are not interested in the other seven limbs of the Raja tradition. I am one of them. That does not mean that at one point of my life I will not explore all the other components of yoga.Many coaches, athletes, doctors and physical therapists are finding out that if an athlete has good flexibility, his or her chance of injury is less than people whose flexibility is poor.
A dear friend who is a yoga expert and licensed reflexologist once told me my hip muscles were tighter than a banjo. And, boy, was she right. Since I have been teaching Estelatte (my personal version of a mixture of tai chi, hatha yoga, pilates, strength and relaxation, and Ester’s stuff), my flexibility has increased tremendously. Teaching Estelatte has helped me deal with chronic pain so much better and has helped lengthen my banjo-tight muscles.
Any class or exercise that extensively focuses on flexibility, strength and balance is going to help a top athlete, mainstream fitness person, inactive person or someone with a disability. It can be a yoga class, chair yoga, stretch class, tai chi class, Bodyflow (which incorporates yoga, tai chi and pilates) or Estelatte.
Of course, you have to do it on a regular basis, and the tighter you are the longer it is going to take.
Unlike working the same muscle in weight training consecutively, you can do yoga every day.
More athletes are seeing improvement after they have started some sort of yoga and have seen great improvements in their performance. I believe Shaquille will be seeing a difference.
Until next week,
Ester Marsh

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