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Male Yoga Instructor Posing Next to Blog Text "The Benefits of Mindfulness & Breathing for Athletes"

The Benefits of Mindfulness & Breathing for Athletes

As an athlete, you’re expecting to perform at your absolute best at every practice and game. Strength training can improve your performance, but to take your training to the next level, you should really consider adding yoga to your weekly routine. Why? In short – you’ll get better at all of your other workouts, and you’ll have better mental performance, too. Yoga can improve your strength training workouts and all physical activities through increasing your mobility, improving your flexibility, and helping you with mindfulness and breathing. While we have gone over some benefits of yoga with strength training before, it’s time to talk specifically about the benefits of mindfulness and breathing. 

In this article we will:

  • Discuss mindfulness and body awareness
  • Reveal the top benefits of mindfulness & breathing
  • Examine how yoga works to improve these areas
  • Provide a workout to improve breathing and body awareness

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply the act of being present and aware. In the context of fitness, it’s about noticing your breathing and having body awareness.

Breathing is something we all do without even thinking about it. Calling attention to it through mindfulness while you’re working out will improve your overall performance. During yoga, you can connect your breath to a pose which will help you move deeper into a stretch. 

Body awareness comes from familiarity with how your body moves, and understanding where it’s limitations or struggles are. Once you’re aware of any weaknesses, you can work towards improving and strengthening those areas. For example, if you start to notice that every time you go on a run your hip starts to hurt, you can start working on specific poses and exercises that will strengthen those muscles.

Male yoga instructor showing hamstring strap stretch for athletes to help increase mindfulness and breathing
Hamstring Strap Stretch

The Benefits of Mindfulness and Breath Work

Mindfulness and breath work do more than boost your workouts; they improve your athletic performance and overall well being. Being mindful strengthens you mentally and will improve your focus. This is not only super important during workouts and games, it can also help you in your day to day life. 

While we often don’t pay attention to our breathing, it’s important to know and understand the effect that breath work can have on our bodies.  When you breathe, you’re pumping freshly oxygenated blood throughout your body. This helps to eliminate cellular waste and prevents any dangerous rises in blood pressure. It can also help you combat any dizziness that you may feel when doing a tough exercise. 

Ultimately, the benefits of mindfulness and breathing will help you maintain your focus through harder and longer sets and will ultimately enhance your athletic abilities.

How Yoga Helps

Yoga places an emphasis on breathing and mindfulness. In just a few weeks of consistent yoga workouts, the benefits of mindfulness and breathing exercises will carry over to weight training and you’ll notice improvement.

This is because both breathing and mindfulness have a great effect on your body. Through breathwork, you’ll be able to work deeper into your flexibility by calming your sympathetic nervous system. This will also help you have more control over your body and allow you to keep pushing forward when you start to feel tired. 

Noticing the effects of these changes will help develop mindfulness.

10-Minute Workout to Reap Benefits of Mindfulness & Breathing

Doing these poses in this order will help you put diaphragmatic breathing into action.

Mountain

Stand with your feet parallel to one another and toes facing forward. Keep a neutral spine and avoid puffing out your chest. Press down through your heels and have all five toes to evenly distribute your body weight. Hold your arms at your sides, palms facing forward and shoulder blades lightly pulling down and back. As you inhale, expand your chest and avoid moving your shoulders. As you exhale, empty your lungs and draw your navel to your spine.

Hold this for 10 breaths.

Shirtless Male Yoga Instructor Demonstrating Mountain Pose for Mindfulness

Bridge

Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Place your feet hip width apart, knees bent. Point your toes straight forward. Press your feet into the floor. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips, making sure to keep your spine neutral. As you inhale, lift your hips higher. As you exhale, tighten your core.

Hold this for 5 breaths.

Shirtless male yoga instructor demonstrating bridge pose

Child’s Pose

Start in a kneeling position on your mat. Your knees should be spread slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your big toes should be touching. Keep feet untucked. Sit your hips back toward your heels. Rest your hands in front of you on the mat. Push your hips back and fold forward. Walk your hands forward at shoulder width to bring your head toward the ground and create a stretch in shoulder and back. Inhale to expand your chest, exhale to tighten your abs. 

Hold this for 5 breaths.

Male yoga instructor demonstrating child's pose for mindfulness and breathing

High Lunge

Stand with your feet parallel to one another and toes facing forward. Keep a neutral spine and avoid puffing out your chest. Press down through your heels and have all five toStanding at the top of your mat, take a big step back with one foot and plant the ball of your other foot on the ground with your heel lifted. Bend your front knee until the shin is perpendicular to the floor. Reach your arms straight overhead, but avoid puffing out your chest and arching your back. Inhale to lengthen the spin and exhale to sink deeper into the lunge.

Hold this for 5 breaths.

Male Yoga Instructor Demonstrates High Lunge Pose for Better Breathing & Mindfulness

Seated Twists

Start in a strong upright seated position with one leg straight out in front of you. Cross your other leg over, planting that foot outside the opposite knee. Bring your opposite hand around your bent knee and sit upright. Actively engage your pelvic floor by rooting down through your hips and lifting the ribs away from the floor. Avoid cranking your elbow into your knee to force the twist. Inhale to get taller and add length. Exhale to work deeper into the twist. 

Hold this for 5 breaths for each side.

Shirtless Male Yoga Instructor Demonstrating Seated Twist Yoga Pose For Better Mindfulness and Breathing

Reclined Twist

Lie on your back with your knees directly over your hips. Extend your arms to your sides with your palms facing the ceiling. Lower your legs to one side, keeping your legs stacked.Do your best to keep your shoulders on the ground. Place your hand on your stacked knees. Draw in your chest to keep your spine neutral and to deepen the stretch in your back.  Inhale to maintain your position. Exhale to deepen the twist.

Hold this for 5 breaths for each side.

Male yoga instructor demonstrating reclined twist to help breathing and mindfulness

Standing Side Bend

Stand tall with your big toes touching and keep your thighs, hips, and core slightly engaged. Reach your arms overhead, press your palms together and interlace your fingers, pointing your index fingers up. Reach up as high as you can before leaning towards on side with your upper body, pressing your hips in the opposite direction. As you inhale, try to get taller and reset your posture.

Hold this for 3 breaths each side.

Shirtless Male Yoga Instructor Demonstrating Standing Side Bend Yoga Pose for Mindfulness

Standing Back Bend

Stand back up with your big toes touching and keeping your thighs, hips, and core slightly engaged. Press your palms together. Keeping your length in your neck, look upward and squeeze your arms back as far as possible, coming into a strong backbend. Only bend from your mid back and up.Only bend as far back as it feels comfortable.

Hold this for 5 breaths.

Shirtless Male Yoga Instructor Demonstrating Standing Back Bend Pose for Better Breathing

Helpful Video

Here is a FREE workout from Dean’s book – Yoga for Athletes, to help with breathing and mindfulness.  Play the video & click on the menu in the top right corner for a full playlist of workout videos the book.

Quick Balance Workout for Hips, Ankles, Knees & Core (Yoga for Athletes Book Workout)

Grab Yoga for Athletes: 10 Minute Yoga Workouts To Make You Better At Your Sport for more workouts, step by step instructions on poses, and more. Get noticeable results that will help you improve your athletic performance and prevent injuries.

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Mindfulness & Breathing for Athletes”

  1. I think everyone should practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that focuses on the present moment and encourages people to be aware of their thoughts and feelings. It helps individuals get out of their own way and live a happier, healthier life. Mindfulness has proven to be an effective tool in reducing stress, anxiety, depression, anger, addiction and many other mental health issues. Thank you for sharing this great blog with us. It was very interesting to read.

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