November 29, 2005

Yoga edge improves athletes' performance

LAKELAND - It's no surprise athletes find yoga a useful complement to their sport-specific training, says Frankie Hart, a longtime dancer who opened the Satya Life yoga studio in Lakeland last year. She has worked with high school and college soccer and basketball players, golfers and cheerleaders.

Hart, who has taught yoga for 15 years, says the regimen works a wider range of muscles than other forms of exercise. She says athletes tend to overdevelop certain muscles and neglect others.

Yoga benefits them by strengthening "counter muscles" -- for example, a cyclist might have strong quadriceps muscles but weak hamstrings. Yoga's emphasis on controlled stretching also loosens muscles, yielding better balance and agility.

In a more general sense, Hart says yoga creates "body intelligence."

"Yoga helps us learn how to work more efficiently," Hart says. "If you're an athlete, you're trying to gain better performance with less energy expenditure."

While athletes tend to notice the physical effects of yoga, Hart says the mental part of the discipline can be equally beneficial. She says the refined awareness yoga can produce mirrors the deep concentration athletes achieve during peak performance, a state often described as being "in the zone."

"Yoga can feed that for a person because yoga brings the mind and body together," Hart says. "There are no other distractions. You're completely in the moment, and athletes understand how important that is."

Student interviews ....

Photos of my way-cool Second City cousin, Christopher Starhawk -- instructor of Hatha Yoga and Raw/Living Foods nutrition ....

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