The Benefits Of Yoga For Basketball
by: Nick Lau
This research article looks to answer the questions about yoga, and the benefits it provides to basketball players. Whether its injury prevention or more dynamic plays based on flexibility, this article will look for the answer. The article will use perspectives of current players such as LeBron James, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love, as well as former stars, such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal, and their experience of yoga and why they participated in the art for most, if not their entire career.
Throughout my life I’ve always been the tallest, whether it was hockey, volleyball, soccer, and even basketball, not one person has come close to my height. However, even though people always said, “how cool it would be to be your size,” no one realized that at some points, its actually very hard to do the activities you love, at the height of six foot seven. Challenges arise from every corner in athletics, especially in basketball, at this height. Major difficulties that I have encountered myself are: flexibility, balance, and basic muscle injuries. Basketball players have always wondered if there is something “we as a whole” can do to keep our bodies in the best shape possible, to perform at elite levels, and that answer was yoga.
When dealing with basketball players, it is very noticeable to see the lack of flexibility in everyone, but especially post players. Kevin Love and Blake Griffin use yoga to gain range in their lower body. This allows them to extend and reach more with their legs during a spin move, or a drop step. The goal of these moves is to gain separation from your defender, and with the help of yoga, both of these players gain maximum range in their legs to wrap around their defenders and, in turn, become more explosive off the block by getting lower; this leads to scoring more easily.
Not only does being more flexible help gain an edge in the post, it also allows these two young superstars’ muscles to be loose and relaxed going into a game. Blake Griffin states, “For me, flexibility is huge, staying loose and healthy and staying limber — you can tell a difference when your muscles are tight, or when you’re stretched out and completely relaxed.”
In addition, Kevin Love’s instructor Kent Katich reinforces the fact of flexibility helping in the low post, “ poses like airplane give him length on drop steps so he can get by a guy on the court.” With these two NBA stars promoting yoga and how it has helped with their flexibility, there should be no more questions about the benefits of flexibility in basketball through yoga. The benefits of flexibility in basketball with the practice of yoga are extraordinary, and these NBA stars have proven it. However, flexibility is not the only benefit that comes with the practice of yoga. Balance is a key aspect also in basketball.
Balance in basketball is very different from any other sport. In hockey, balance is being able to have a low center of gravity and stay strong on one skate. In volleyball, its staying low and being ready for an attack from the other team. However, this is not the case with basketball. In basketball, balance takes on a whole new definition. Its getting low when playing defense and offense in the low block. Its having the mindset to not rush anything, taking time to make a move, and thinking about the right decision. Next to that, balance in basketball is about exhibiting the three C’s; being calm, cool, and collected.
Yoga allows for the practice of a patient mindset. Yoga involves taking breaths and just relaxing. This is very helpful, according to Kevin Garnett, who plays most of the game with his back to the basket and needs those couple of breaths to think of what he wants to do next.
Kevin, who does Astanga yoga, says: “Yoga helps me calm down and helps me center my energy so I’m balanced instead of going out there and just spreading my energy all over the court. I’m zeroes in on the game and have my mind set on what I need to do.” Kevin Garnett is one of the oldest NBA players, and he is also one of the best to ever play the game. By participating in yoga, Garnett has been able to extend his career int he NBA over the past seventeen years; and throughout those seventeen years, his mindset and his work ethic have been said to be the best of all time.
When Garnett plays, his balance/mindset is very evident, and he attributes it to doing yoga on a daily basis. Injuries in the sport of basketball are almost as common as stubbing a toe, or cooking dinner. Because injuries happen so often, players have tried many things to help strengthen and prevent them, and one of the best solutions is yoga.
The most prevalent injury in basketball is a sprained ankle, says Kent Katich, “Basketball players also have a tendency to roll their ankles a lot. Repetitive spraining of the ankle starts to harden the muscle that surrounds the ankle.” Yoga allows for the strengthening of the smaller muscles that don’t get used often. Basketball players tend to wear shoes due to the nature of the sport.
However, when doing yoga, shoes and socks come off, which allows for those small muscles to activate around the ankle and become stronger. According to Katich, taking the shoes off is harder than it looks: “Getting these guys barefoot is an accomplishment, because they start having to work with these smaller muscles they never really deal with, because their ankles are always taped, and they’re wearing shoes. You’re able to start to identify some of the deficiencies and imbalances that come with overload of certain workouts.”
This really allows players who jump and exert pressure all the time on their ankles, which is a break in a sense, because the ankle is stronger and will hold up better over a long season of playing, instead of watching from the press box. Another common injury is in basketball is back problems. This is because everyone is so tall, and never took the time to strengthen the small muscles in the back, which help with support; players also did not take the time to stretch and let the back become more flexible, which will lead to fewer injuries.
LeBron James says, “I had some lower back problems a few years ago and once I started to do yoga, it has helped them go away for now. Of course, we can stretch, but stretching only goes so far.” A great example of the benefit of yoga for injury prevention came in March of 2009 for LeBron James. This is when he took a very awkward fall on to his neck and shoulder. To any other player this could have been a devastating injury. However, LeBron attributes the fact that he was not injured to yoga; due to the awkward positions he is put into when doing yoga, the muscles are strengthened, preventing a major neck injury from happening. This demonstrates how important yoga can be to preventing not only common injuries, but also fluke ones as well.
With the challenges that arise every day in sport, yoga has led to solutions on how to correct the issues. By partaking in yoga, it is easy to stretch out muscles and become more flexible. Calming oneself is a major aspect of yoga, and it indeed helps with basketball, and staying calm under pressure. The overall importance of yoga is to help prevent injuries, and with all the technical aspects of yoga, it is very easy for basketball players to become more resistant to injuries. They are able to strengthen muscles that have never been focused on before, especially in their feet. In saying this, there is no doubt that by participating in yoga, basketball players benefit immensely from it, and by doing so, extend their careers as long as possible.
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