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Esther Mejias wearing an Iron Girl outfitTeam Conditioning Systems:
Mind Over Muscle

Monday, May 14, 2001

By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

Ok, ok, enough already! If I had heard about the benefits of Yoga one more time, I thought I would scream. So me, being the open-minded person that I am, thought I should investigate for myself. Let me start off by saying that I know a little something about Yoga and it's benefits. I have friends and family who study it and have a great deal of fun practicing the techniques they learn. But it just wasn't for me. After doing some research for this article, it has truly given me a new sense of awareness. One of the first things I learned was that some people consider Yoga to be a great way to cross train. It has the ability to loosen tight muscles, while at the same time enhancing their strength, giving them great amounts of anaerobic, aerobic and flexibility work in a short period of time.

Esther Mejias working out in her Dance Skin outfitThe benefits of utilizing Yoga as a cross training tool are numerous. If you participate in a sport, chances are you've already done Yoga. Many types of stretching warm ups may not say they are Yoga poses but the concepts are the same. While warming up athletes have approximately 4 needs that must be met. First the core body temperature must be raised, this makes the muscle more pliable and easily moved over the joint, enhancing the range of motion. Next is the actual stretching of the muscle, thirdly, preparing the stabilizing muscle to enhance balance which any good athlete knows without balance you won't be able to compete very on any level. Lastly, perfecting sport specific movements. When done correctly Yoga addresses them all. With that said ,Yoga is quickly becoming a major part of our everyday strength program.

By adding Yoga to our strength protocol, our athletes spend less time doing cardio work, the breathing techniques that are performed to reduce stress also work to improve aerobic capacity. Yoga teaches the lungs and surrounding muscles to expand as much as possible increasing oxygen intake. When it comes to the enhancement of flexibility, the benefits cannot be contested. The development of balance between mobility and stability around the joint will create an athlete that will move with greater fluidity, and once that happens there is no telling how far you and your talent will go. The awareness an athlete has of his or her body in space cannot be stressed enough. Once you get that you then become an athlete who can make a difference. Another benefit of Yoga is stamina improvement, the breathing techniques taught not only reduce stress, but also improves the body's ability to utilize oxygen within the blood stream. It also increases the amount of blood with tired muscles, bringing in more oxygen at the same time. With the added oxygen, the elimination of lactic acid is greatly assisted reducing the chance of delayed onset muscle soreness.

The biggest benefit an athlete gets from Yoga, I learned, is that it can help the body recover faster. The movements build strength throughout the entire body. It enhances the ability of your arms and legs to work with the body as one big kinetic unit. This means less work for your body and no wasted effort that can usually lead to injury.

I can honestly say that doing this piece has truly made me realize that there is a great benefit to Yoga and if done properly will only make athletes better. At Rutgers our athletes are starting to show for more and more of the Yoga classes and who knows, maybe I will turn up in a class one day.

TCS would like to thank models Esther Mejias and Maritzabell Martinez for participating in the Yoga exercises. Also TCS would like to thank Iron Girl for providing Esther's outfit and Dance Skin for Maritza's outfit. The Cherry Hill Health and Racquet Club was kind enough in allowing us the use of their facility.

Photos by Art Redd

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