To become elite at any sport you must master one, or likely several movements. In order to do this over time your brain will make the mental adaptation, but your body will adapt to the optimal shape and positions to perform these movements. For instance if you play a jumping sport such as basketball or volleyball; you probably experience stiffness through the knees and hips because your body has adapted these structures to be tight and springy for takeoff; while a golfer will have increased rotational range through the spine to accommodate their swing etc.
This is where overuse injuries come in. These are the little aches and pains that eat away at the elite athlete almost endlessly. Overuse injuries often occur due to the high degree of specialization the human body needs to achieve to be excel in a sport. While there are individual drills (prehabilitation) that athletes can perform to protect certain structures against injury; but it is hard to beat yoga in terms of correcting movement patterns and resetting the body.
Yoga is a great reset for an athlete because it requires slow precise movements - the opposite of the explosive, ballistic movements found in sports - and requires participants to display strength in odd positions e.g. a hockey player may need to introduce their ankles to 60 degrees of range in Malasana; and no matter how strong a rugby back may be they can learn an entirely new version of body control in downward dog. Lastly, with the use of accessories like blocks and straps athletes can lead their bodies into positions where the stretch is passive; and tight muscles who are always turned on can finally find the off switch.
If you are already elite and or are on the path to being elite in any sport; do yourself a favour and try a 30-40 minute yoga session during the week. Your body will thank you!
Jordan Guilford holds a degree in Exercise Science & Health Promotion and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He spent 4 years as a Fitness Instructor for the Canadian Armed Forces and is the Fitness Director for the Canadian Ice Academy