Yoga at the core of great athletes

Russell Ragland is a competitive runner and knows the importance of stretching before he hits the road.

"Otherwise, my muscles would be tight when I run and I'm just asking for an injury," said Ragland.

Ragland is now using yoga to make himself an even better athlete.

"It increases strength, endurance, balance," said Ragland.

Most people realize /*yoga*/ can help with balance and toning your core, or mid-section. But studies also show it increases flexibility and helps eliminate soreness. So many college and professional teams are now incorporating yoga into their training.

"It's intrinsic in any kind of sport where you're training - especially at a high level - that there's going to be imbalance in the body," said Michelle Demus, instructor at /*Pure Yoga*/. "If you're really good at running, you're going to get tight in the hamstring; if you're good at cycling from hinging over at the back, you're going to get a little bit tight through here."

Research also shows athletes who perform yoga gain strength without the strain.

"You're working with your own body weight. So in terms of injury prevention and overall body conditioning, it's one of the best exercises out there," said Demus.

And the concentration that comes with yoga can help sharpen your head game.

"The mental aspect of yoga is a huge, huge issue. With yoga, the breath work becomes very intrinsic in a lot of what we do," said Demus.

Experts say that mental focus may make all the difference in an intense round of tennis, or any sport when the competition is tough. All the combined benefits of yoga come into play for long-distance running, which Ragland enjoys most.

"Since I've been integrating yoga practice into my routine, I believe that I'm less sore - or sore for a shorter duration of time after a race or a hard run," said Ragland.

Yoga moves can also improve your game for other sports such as /*surfing*/, /*swimming*/ or /*skiing*/; all sports where the body has to react quickly.



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