You probably wouldn’t be surprised to see top soccer players lifting weights, but what about balancing in a downward dog pose?
Yes, I’m talking about yoga, which has become more and more popular in recent years for both its physical and mental benefits.
But what about soccer specifically? Can yoga make you a better player?
Yes, and in quite a few ways!
Yoga is all about gaining more flexibility, improving balance, becoming better biomechanically aligned, and controlling your breathing. It also helps you increase your endurance and even puts you in a healthier mental state for peak performance.
These translate to some huge benefits on the field. Being flexible, for one, helps you prevent injuries. Yoga helps you loosen up your tight muscles, stabilize joints, and strengthen areas you don’t usually work. This helps you make quick changes of pace on the pitch and lessens the risk of a muscle pull or other injury.
Balance is key in all sports and doing yoga will greatly improve your balance. For soccer, improved balance gives you a better awareness of where your body is and how to control it. Being balanced will help you keep the ball by not allowing another player to knock you off it, for example. Better balance and a stronger core (which you develop through yoga) will also help you when you are challenging for balls in the air.
Controlling your breathing in any exercise or sport is important. Breathing helps get oxygen to the muscles you are working the hardest. If you cannot control your breathing properly, you are limiting your performance. You will have more stamina when running if you can control your breathing. It will also help you stay relaxed under pressure, allowing you to use your energy more efficiently and effectively.
Most standard yoga poses and exercises will give us these benefits, so feel free to seek out a routine from anywhere, from your local yoga studio to a quick Google search. A few exercises you might want to focus on in particular are the pigeon pose, the triangle pose, the warrior poses, forward bends and lunges.
Many professional soccer players, including the U.S. Men’s National Team, do yoga. A couple of examples of players in recent years who publicly credited yoga to making a major impact on their game include Brad Friedel and Ryan Giggs. That’s a good enough incentive for me. What about you? Will you give yoga a try?