When it comes to keeping injury free, you don’t need to look any further than yoga. The cocktail of stretches and poses are a tonic for active bodies.
If you’re the teeniest-tiniest bit athletic, then you’ll already know that sport and injury go together like breakfast tea and custard creams, November bonfires and roasted marshmallows, Phuket’s shoreline and Instagram-stories, pain au chocolats and mornings in Paris. It’s just a fact. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re into – whether you are obsessed with Muay Thai or you love a morning run along some surf-soaked beach – when you’re active, you run the risk of picking up some niggly-little-good-for-nothing-injury. Keeping injury free is a priority for all atheletes.
It could be caused by a repetitive motion of some kind, an inexplicable imbalance in your body’s biomechanics, a dollop of bad luck (like that time I went for a guilt-ridden jog on a hangover and ended up twisting my ankle on a conch) or, if you’re super-duper unlucky, you might find you’ve ticked every one of the boxes above. I know, I know. It’s a pretty bleak combination of facts, but that doesn’t change the fact they are still facts.
But it’s not all bad news.
Not at all.
It’s called yoga, and it’s the most relaxing, soothing, calming, mindful, magical tool at your disposal for keeping injury free.
In its most basic translation, yoga is all about being more aware of yourself – your mind and your body – and that by its very nature means taking stock of the bits that make you you. Yoga encourages you to be a gazillion times more aware of the way you feel as you enjoy each day – or each pose – meaning you are a gazillion times more likely to notice a little niggle here or a slight tightness there, or a part of your body that’s screaming out for some extra tender, love and care.
Essentially, practising yoga and being in tune with your body can help you spot a potentially injury-prone part of your body long before it turns into a full-blown, tear-jerking, sport-stopping, bed-bound injury, and that sort of Minority Report-style prevention can only be a good thing for an athlete.
Of course, that’s only one of yoga’s superpowers. Its other one is all to do with stretching – both the passive poses and active techniques – that help keep you limber, flexible, dexterous and, as a result, injury-free. Hell yeah! For most athletes – especially Muay Thai fighters – this news should be more exciting than getting to open that one present on Christmas Eve. Why? Because when you are training with the intention of being stronger or faster, you make certain sacrifices:
- Your muscles get tighter.
- You limit your range of motion.
- You may reduce your power.
- And you become more prone to those dreaded injuries.
That’s where the combination of active and passive yoga techniques come in. When you practise active stretching, your body is moving in such a way that it creates warmth and flexibility in your muscles, and when you enjoy passive stretching (aka hold a seriously contorted pose for a minute or so), you’re encouraging your muscles and tendons to get that teeny-tiny bit longer. This is good news – very good news – because you’ll end up with muscle tissue that’s far more pliable and elastic, which will allow your body to recover faster from all the stress you put it through on a day-to-day basis, keeping it injury free.
That said, there are some sport-related injuries that are more common than others, which is why we have pulled together a few infographics, each one highlighting how the world of yoga can make you more immune to these historically annoying injuries. Enjoy.
What Else Can You Do To Keep Injury Free Injury And Perform Better?
Well, to help you answer that, we’ve come up with a few options:
Option No.1: Warm Up and Cool Down
I know, I kind of phrased this like it was optional, but warming up and cooling down should be as mandatory as breathing oxygen and paying taxes. That’s how essential they are in the war to keep injury free. The reason for this is simple: warming up gets your blood slowly pumping through your muscles, allowing the fascia to grow and accommodate the stresses and strains of whatever activity you’re about to do, and a cool-down helps your body recover in record time. It doesn’t matter if it’s walking for a handful of minutes or opening up Youtube on your phone and doing a 10-minute yoga session, anything that wakes up your muscles before you train hard or play harder is a must. Then, afterward, make sure you stretch for at least 20 minutes. At least.
Option No.2: Soothe Yourself Into Submission
Relax. Like proper relax. I’m talking about finishing your workout and slipping into a bathtub of warm-slash-boiling hot water that’s fizzing with Epsom salts so that you can give your tired muscles that soothing sanctuary to kick back and relax in (even letting them soak up some of that magnesium sulfate so you don’t feel sore the next day).
Option No.3: Rest. Rest Some More. And A Little Bit More. Repeat.
In case you didn’t know just how good sleep was for you already, a sweet night of slumber is one of the best things you can give your muscles because that’s when the tissue heals and rebuilds most. So no matter how good the offer might be or how badly you suffer from FOMO, please don’t skimp on the shuteye, especially if you’ve gone hard in the gym or the ring.
Option No.4: Minerals Maketh Man (& Woman)
When you’re done exercising and perspiring out of every pore on your body, what you need to do is replenish the minerals you’ve lost, and the simplest way to do that is grab a sports drink that’s packed full of calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which evaporate when you sweat, encouraging your muscles to cramp up and become sore. Want my suggestion: make a chard, kale and cantaloupe smoothie in the morning and take it with you so that you can chug on a whole load of tasty foods that are high in those much-needed minerals when you’re done exercising.