Many people, especially athletes, tend to underestimate the benefits of yoga. They see it as merely a mild form of exercise and think that it won’t do much for their overall health and athletic performance.

In reality, though, everyone can benefit from yoga, including highly active, athletic individuals.

Listed below are five benefits that come from adding yoga to your fitness routine.

Increase Flexibility

Whether you play sports or are an Olympic weightlifter, you’re probably not as flexible as you’d like to be.

While you may think you don’t have time to focus on flexibility, your lack of mobility could actually be hindering your performance. When you’re more flexible, you’re better able to move through a full range of motion, which typically leads to increased muscle gain.

When you’re more flexible, you also lower your risk of joint and muscle tears, as well as overuse injuries that are caused by favoring one side over the other.

Golfers, tennis players, and baseball players are particularly prone to imbalance issues. By using yoga to stretch and strengthen both sides of the body equally, these athletes can help minimize the damage caused by their training.

Improve Core Strength

A strong core will also reduce your risk of injury by helping improve your balance.

Many yoga poses, such as planks and balancing poses, do a great job of strengthening all the muscles in the core, not just the abdominals.

A strong core can also improve your performance and stamina. Athletes with a stronger core often fatigue less and are better able to push through difficult training sessions.

Even if you’re not an athlete, a strong core is still beneficial.

When you’re lifting weights, core strength allows you to train other muscles longer (and see better results from your training), since you won’t be compensating with your lower back or other muscles.

A strong core also just makes it easier for you to handle the demands of daily life, such as cleaning your house, carrying groceries, or standing up from a chair.

Correct Improper Movement Patterns

Many people don’t realize that their movement patterns are not ideal for their favorite activities. For example, lots of people hyperextend their knees while doing deadlifts or squats, or they stand with an excessively swayed back to compensate for tight hamstrings.

When combined with other corrective tools like knee braces, yoga can help you improve your mobility and teach you the proper patterns to prevent knee hyperextension and other compensation movements.

Yoga is especially beneficial because you’re typically moving slower than usual. This gives you time to tune in to the way your body’s moving through space and identify your bad habits.

Reduce Stress

In addition to the physical benefits, yoga also comes with a number of mental benefits that can help you take your fitness goals to the next level.

Yoga forces you to slow down and pay attention to your thoughts, especially during Savasana, the final resting pose that takes place at the end of every class. The purpose of Savasana is to meditate, quiet the mind, and allow the body to rest.

Meditation is beneficial for everyone, but athletes and highly active people, in particular, should definitely be utilizing it to help them stay present during a game or competition. Mental strength and clarity will help you stay focused and avoid giving in to distractions.

Better Sleep

Finally, doing yoga before bed can help you get a better night’s sleep. Sleep is essential for active individuals, as that’s the time when your muscles recover from all the stress you’ve put on them throughout the day.

Yoga helps slow down your heart rate and calm your body, two things that are essential for getting to sleep at a decent hour.

It also helps you calm your mind, something many people struggle with. If you lie down at night and find that your mind is racing, meditating and focusing on your breath can help you fall asleep faster.

Whether you’re an athlete or just someone who lives an active lifestyle, yoga should definitely be part of your routine. Give it a try today to start seeing these great benefits!