Okay, so maybe your youth athlete isn’t ready to be doing headstands while chanting Namaste, but yoga is a great activity for youth athletes (and sports parents) regardless of age or experience. Yoga works to improve strength, balance, flexibility, mental control and much more, all of which can help contribute to an athlete’s overall skill. Not to mention, yoga classes designed for kids can actually be a lot of fun!
Yoga can help increase flexibility.
Believe it or not “growing pains” are a real physical thing! During adolescence youth athletes are going to experience growth spurts and their bones will grow fairly quickly (sometimes it seems like overnight!). But growing bones means tighter muscles, which could mean your youth athlete isn’t as flexible as they were when they were seven or eight. Since yoga emphasizes flexibility it can be a great way for youth athletes to stretch those tight muscles, relieving tension headaches and body aches. Greater flexibility can also help prevent sports-related injuries.
Yoga forces youth athletes to pay attention to their bodies.
Unfortunately, some youth athletes may lie about injuries in order to avoid being pulled off the field. Others may not even realize they’re hurting until the adrenaline turns off and they are back in the locker room. Yoga isn’t nearly as fast-paced as lacrosse or hockey and it’s much harder to tune out what your body is telling you—which is a great skill for any youth athlete to learn, especially those that want to go on to play in high school and college. A great youth athlete is always going to want to give it their all on the field but they need to learn when they’ve reached their max before they go too far and hurt themselves. In yoga, youth athletes can adapt the various poses to their own skill level so they aren’t pushing themselves past the point of no return. It’s a good way to learn about your own limits.
Yoga is a great way to help athletes recover when they don’t want to sit still.
The more serious your youth athlete is about their sport the more practice and game time they’ll be involved in but even the best athletes in the world need time off to rest and recover; your muscles just need a day off! But some athletes don’t like to take a rest from their training, so yoga is a great way to give them the time off their body needs from serious training but still give them something active to do. “Active recovery” can help reduce muscle lactate levels faster than total rest and help speed up recovery.
Yoga is also a great activity for the whole family if you’re looking for something to do together. Lots of community centers offer kids’ yoga classes, mommy and me yoga classes, yoga for teens, and so forth. It’s also great because even if you have never attempted a downward dog pose in your life the classes are designed for each individual participant; it’s not a competition! If you can’t do a headstand you can’t do a headstand and that’s okay.