How Yoga Could Help This Year’s Olympic Athletes

The GaiamTV interview series features in-depth conversations with some of the nation’s top yoga instructors and wellness experts. GaiamTV is a lifestyle media website that features thousands of online videos and yoga classes designed “to nourish your mind, body, and soul.” Next up this week is with Katie Brauer about her video, Yoga for Athletes.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Katie. Can you share with readers why you think yoga is particularly beneficial for athletes? 

Regardless of the sport, be it cycling, running, skiing, etc athletes tend to be locked into repetitive and habitual movement patterns and have a propensity to be over developed in specific areas and under developed in others. Add to that the lactic acid accumulation in the muscles and you have a significant increase in tone from the central nervous system.

Yoga serves as an incredible resource to cultivate balanced action in the body whilst regulating tone and improving tissue length. Yoga enhances lymphatic activity, improves immune function, digestion and sleep (muscle tension is one of the primary causes of poor sleep). Stretching can also reduce the chance of injury and improve normal function while the breathing component of a yoga practice initiates a parasympathetic response in the nervous system and supports recovery.

What are some common challenges athletes face in their yoga practice, and how can they overcome them?

There is a reason athletes are athletes — they are competitive by nature. Initially, for most athletes, yoga is another quest to conquer. There lies the initial challenge — shifting the mindset from achieving a goal to an understanding that there is no goal other than to breath and be present to the sensations that arise as feedback in the body. Finding classes that are specifically geared toward athletes can be helpful, a room full of spandex clad, bendy, beauties only adds to the need to “perform”.

When it comes to Yoga, the last thing an athlete needs is another workout. Classes that are integrative and geared toward recovery are really wonderful additions to any training program and enable an entire system reset.

Across the board athletes tend to be tight through the hips, hamstrings and upper back. It is important to remind students that compromising length in the spine to get your heels to the floor in down dog, or to get a deeper twist is completely missing the point. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Neutralize the pelvis and focus on the action, not the external shape. Embodying postures with an awareness of pelvic stability will ultimately lend itself to enhanced performance and being able to move efficiently and effectively with less effort in your sport. Bend your knees in down dog, back off the twist to support lengthening in the spine.

What is your intent in sharing the Yoga Flow for Athletes practice?

To offer a practice that is engaging and fluid whilst exploring the terrain of the body most in need of attention from an athletes perspective. This dynamic practice dives into deep hip, quad and hamstring openers and emphasizes breath and movement flushing the system and supporting recovery.

Side Note: As an athlete investing a little over a long period of time will reap huge rewards in your athletic performance.

We recommend:

Yoga Flow for Athletes with Katie Brauer

Blending intuitive Kripalu and flowing Vinyasa styles, this practice increases flexibility, range of motion and strength in the areas athletes need targeted most. Open your legs and hips, strengthen your core and gain awareness of your spinal alignment.All levels, including beginners..


Are you an athlete? Try Katie’s awesome class, especially designed for athletes, for FREE here:


Check out the other interviews in this series:

The Fire of Transformation with Kia Miller

Rodney Yee on What Makes Yoga Powerful

Jill Miller on Yoga, Weight Loss, & Eating Disorders

Kathryn Budig on Aiming True & The Path of Love

Seane Corn on Detoxing the Mind and Body

How to Cultivate Core Strength with Sadie Nardini

Evolutionary Enlightenment with Andrew Cohen

How to Tap Into Your Boundless Creative Power with Dana Flynn