Yoga might not fit into traditional fitness plans incorporated with cheer training. Sure, you need cardio and core strengthening conditioning sessions to get you into top physical condition for the cheer season, but low-intensity workouts bring their own benefits to the fitness table, too! To truly go full out, you have to maintain a well-rounded level of fitness that includes strength training, consistent cardio, endurance training, and yes, even meditation! That’s where activities like yoga come in–to help cheerleaders achieve that balance (pun intended). There are many wellness benefits to yoga, but there are some things about it that apply to cheerleaders more than to other athletes.

1. Yoga increases flexibility.
This is a given–yoga helps you bend. But, yoga poses aren’t the normal stretches that an athlete does before and after they workout. Stretches in yoga activate muscle groups that lay dormant in other exercises as you twist your body in unconventional ways. This is great for cheerleaders, since stunting requires most of the muscles in your body! Yoga covers all of your major and minor muscle groups, and with persistent yoga sessions, you will not only get these muscles used to being activated, but also increase the flexibility of your muscles as you do. It’s a win-win!

2. Yoga heightens mental acuity. As you train, one thing that most cheerleaders overlook is their mental wellness. Cheerleading is fun, fierce, and full of challenges, which can sometimes lead to becoming overstressed and overworked. Yoga, and other alternative workouts, help to decompress participants through meditative breathing, focus, and channeling your energy away from mental stressors. Cheerleaders lead very active lives–with calendars lined with cheer, school, and social engagements–so taking time out to breathe and reflect does more good than you think! Plus, with a clear mind, cheerleaders can focus better when it counts! Breaking down tough choreography becomes easier with less mental clutter, you sleep better at night, and you’re able to overcome obstacles you never thought possible–all just by taking the time to condition your mind.

3. Yoga protects you from injury.
Say, what?!? It’s true! Injuries happen for more reasons, but many are from strains and muscle tears. In cheerleading, concussions are the number one injury, fact, and there’s not much you can do about that besides try to cheer safely. But, yoga does help protect you from other cheer injuries! Yoga stretches not only your muscles, but the ligaments that hold your muscles together; since they are regularly getting activated, your ligaments don’t tear as easily.

4. Yoga gives you more energy.
That’s right–ditch the energy drinks and venti Starbucks frappachinos (not the healthiest choice anyway)! Through the muscle activation and the mental meditation, you walk out of yoga feeling refreshed. It’s why people go! Because of the downtime you’ve taken to revitalize your mental and physical health, you have (without knowing) fueled yourself with energy for other activities. Yoga is like taking a vacation for your soul–go away for an hour and come back to face the rest of your day!

How else does yoga help cheerleaders? How has yoga made an impact in your cheer career? Tell us your story in the comments!