When I roll out my mat I glance around the room to see who all is in attendance… sure enough the usual, the majority being women of all ages and only few gentlemen. I can’t help but to think that I’d win a Kia Optima if this class turns into an NBA skills competition. It never does, but I’m always left thinking: Where are the athletes?

Yoga is widely known for increasing flexibility, decreasing stress, aiding recovery, helping to find focus and preventing serious injury. All serving to benefit the athlete, yet we are largely absent in yoga studios across the country.

Now let me stop you right there, before you cast me as a vegan spiritual shaman with a shih tzu named Yogi riding shotgun in a Prius. I enjoy my steaks bloody, my football on Sundays, and my rap music loud and explicit. I am just an athlete who wants to become a better athlete, coworker, and creator.

If you want to perform at the top of your game, you cannot leave aside yoga – in sports as well as at work. For what it’s worth, these four yoga poses helped me change my game:

Downward facing dog lets me find stillness

Yoga pose, athlete, yoga mat, yoga, stretch
©Steven Sczepanik

Beads of sweat fall from my face onto the mat as I hold my pose in downward facing dog. With each breath I take I begin to let go of any unnecessary thought patterns. As I enter stillness the problems of the outside world cease to exist. I raise my right leg, adding a degree of difficulty while I am only focused on taking full – and – deep breaths.

Now when I’m out on the golf course about to have an explosive Happy Gilmore reaction, I’m reminded by this pose to be mindful of my breathing.  It was hard in the beginning to slow down my overall approach to the game, but today I quite often manage to reproduce stillness on the golf course by giving each shot my full attention.

Half pigeon gives me freedom of motion (it’s all in the hips)

yoga, yoga mat, stretch, yoga pose, athlete
©Steven Sczepanik

For quite some time, the fear of a groin pull was a source of my insecurity playing baseball. I simply didn’t experience the freedom of motion I needed to lunge, twist, hit and run in a symphony of motion and timing. Sinking deeper into half pigeon pose I am targeting my hip flexors, where years of neglect have left ‘the gatekeeper’ of mobility rusty with an attitude to boot.

Slowly, the congestion in my hip joints disperses and my groin muscles become strengthened by this proactive therapy that targets the origin of my reoccurring injury. Today, the sudden changes in direction that once plagued my groin allow me to make an outstanding play!

Gaining perspective in revolved extended side angle

yoga, stretch, yoga pose, athlete, yoga mat
©Steven Sczepanik

To further search for underdeveloped areas in my body, I do revolved extended side angle. For me, this pose is a constant work in progress and from it I’ve learned to embrace improvements as they happen, no matter how small the increment – progress always brings a smile to my ever so reluctant face.

Turning the page in twisting sage pose

yoga, yoga mat, athlete, yoga pose
©Steven Sczepanik

The twisting sage pose helps me to identify and accept the forces that move with and against me. By paying attention to my figurative ‘blind spots’ I can address the issues that passively take time and energy away from achieving my goals.

So, earlier this year I packed up my car, grabbed Rocko Bubba Jones (my dog) and said goodbye to America’s Finest City! (San Diego). Till this day I warm up in this pose and it reminds me of the clarity I’ve gained to prioritize challenges and make decisions with confidence.

From the mat, back to work

yoga, yoga pose, yoga mat, stretch, athlete
©Steven Sczepanik

I’ve found yoga to be a multidimensional approach to training that gets my body and mind prepared for any challenge and I’m convinced that we can tap into the same degree of focus required to exceed typical levels of performance and produce extraordinary results at work.

With every yoga class I took, I could concentrate better, I got my work done quicker; I managed to set goals that align with my passions, and now I am forging my own path into an exciting new career!

So what are you waiting for? You can learn these poses at any gym that offers yoga classes. Drop the weights, get off the cardio machine, and try it out yourself.

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by Steven 12.10.2016
Amazing article!! Way to show the balance yoga can bring into everybody'a life!!
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by Aaron Robinson Steven 17.10.2016
Thank you Steven, I'm glad that you found the article useful!
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by Rachel 12.10.2016
Great read, Aaron! I'm with you on this! Yoga provides so much positivity, flexibility, strength and growth! Everyone of all walks of life should be taking it up. Loved this article!
Reply
by Aaron Robinson Rachel 17.10.2016
Thanks Rachel for your kind words. It is true, yoga can bring so much value to anyone's life and it is my hope to show people how it can be used as a tool for personal growth.
Reply
by Frank Thomas 12.10.2016
Hey Aaron, it's great to hear from someone about the effects of Yoga who is not a pro like Tara Stiles (even though I loved her GamePlan A article as well). My wife is a Yoga teacher and I have to admit I had prejudices as well. After giving it a go, there was one particularly impressive learning: competitive athletes (and maybe especially men) tend to try hard to get into the full stretch right away..."It gotta hurt! Don't be a crier, try harder!". However, if you let go, focus on your breath and on gently sinking deeper into the stretch with every time you breath out, you'll achieve so much better results. Even within one single flow. To me this a reminder that sometimes it is better to do things gently instead of forcing results to happen "right now". Thanks for reminding me about this.
Best, Frank
Reply
by Aaron Robinson Frank Thomas 28.11.2016
Great to hear from you Frank "Big Herz" Thomas-

First off, what a great resource to have partner who teaches Yoga. Now you have no excuse not to participate!
To your point, As athletes when we let go and breathe through that discomfort (instead of fightng it)-we are leveling off our (at times) hyper competetive egos to access our truth... You can say yoga gives us a healthy dose of humility.

Best,

Aaron
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by Hope 16.11.2016
Thank you for an inspiring & well thought out article. My relationship with yoga swings between absolute adoration & dread (when starting back up after a lapse). I find it hard to relax again & am always comparing my current state to my past. I really enjoyed your tidbits of wisdom in applying the feelings yoga produces to calm my mind & improve other aspects of my life. And, who knows, maybe my hips will finally loosen up! lol
Reply
by Aaron Robinson Hope 28.11.2016
Thank you for the kind words Hope!

I completely feel where you're coming from. Even till this day it is a battle to keep my practice going consistently. Either way, it always feels like home when we make it back to the mat.

Best,

Aaron

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