Cheerleaders and squads usually have a set routine and workout schedule. They stretch, they tumble, and they work on cardio, either by running or jogging. These three are big necessities for cheerleaders. Stretching helps prevent injuries; tumbling improves your skills; and cardio helps survive a rigorous routine. But what many cheerleaders and squads may not be doing, but should be doing, is yoga. While yoga has been around for thousands of years, interest and participation has greatly increased in the last few years and it has become a trendy workout for athletes and non-athletes. Even the NFL Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders do yoga as a team! On Cheer News Network’s website, we read a great article written by a former competitive cheerleader named Kimberly Daniels who talked about the ways yoga changed her life. Kimberly discussed the physical and mental benefits, from meditation to healing from injuries. Yoga, she explains, has a great way of helping a cheerleader’s body, which is actually damaged because of a cheerleader’s extreme flexibility. She explains, “due to the extreme flexibility that cheerleaders have, there is often, if not always, a lack of engagement in the muscles, and hyperextension. Over time, the combination of hyperextension and flexibility without alignment will injure the muscles and body. Muscle engagement will protect your muscles as well as open them properly, and safely.” There are many yoga styles and, while Kimberly talks specifically about Anusara yoga, all styles of yoga are beneficial. So what are the benefits of yoga for an athlete? Mental benefits: Yoga is all about finding peace and becoming connected with your mind, body, and soul. Through meditating and deep breathing exercises, your mind can slow down and you can re-focus on your life and current stresses. Yoga has been known to greatly reduce stress and even helps athletes perform better. This is because meditating allows you to re-connect with your body; you’ll be more aware of injuries, pains, or anything you need to work on more or take a break from. As a cheerleader, you’ve got a lot going on in life, from school to cheer to personal issues. Yoga allows you to calm down and de-stress. Physical benefits: As included in mental benefits, yoga helps you perform better. Yoga is similar to stretching. Your flexibility increases and your muscles loosen and relax. For these reasons alone, yoga is great to do before practicing or working out. As opposed to stretching, however, the focus isn’t trying to push yourself has far as possible. Rather, it’s about extending your body. Yoga can actually help you heal from injuries that may have occurred from stretching or stunting. Additionally, yoga improves your posture and makes your limbs look leaner and longer; that is always a plus for cheerleaders and dancers. Remember, you can do yoga as a team or individually. Yoga classes are readily available at many gyms or yoga studios. If one isn’t available in your area or you just want to give it a try, there are numerous DVDs for doing yoga at home. You can read Kimberly’s full story on Cheer News Network here. Fun Yoga Resource: Women’s Health magazine has a great overview of 14 different yoga styles, including Anusara. Each style not only includes a definition, but also lists for whom it’s best. Check it out here. Do you do or have you ever done yoga? What kind of workouts does your squad do?