Exploring yoga for athletes

 

The philosophy of yoga is one of the greatest contributions Indian culture has given to mankind. The virtues of yoga cannot be extolled enough. Yoga is definitely for everyone and has been gaining popularity as a performance enhancer for athletes. It benefits athletes in various ways as sports is both a mind and a body game. An athlete’s body tends to give up during high endurance events, however it is the mind that continues to fight and keep them going. This we have witnessed in many games like tennis, marathons, football, and even cricket. In many of these games, we have watched athletes at the brink of exhaustion, yet being able to successfully pull through at the end. This makes us wonder where all that mental strength comes from. Along with the experience and talent, yoga plays a very important role in providing the impetus to these athletes.

The retinue of great tennis players like Novac Djokovic and Roger Federer include advanced yoga instructors. Athletes can embrace the physical side of the discipline as well as the more spiritual, reflective practices of meditation and breathing. The obvious benefits of yoga for athletes include the following-

Better Balance

Yoga builds greater body awareness and balance as well as overall muscular control. The asanas help in increasing our focus. Finding the right balance comes from maintaining a steady state of mind which comes with structured practice. My own yoga teacher always emphasises doing yoga with a positive outlook and never going into poses when one is in an extreme state of euphoria or despair. One should choose the middle path and work to achieve the right balance to lead a fulfilling life.

Flexibility

Flexibility in the body mitigates the chances of an injury. One cannot emphasise enough the importance of doing our stretches after every workout. Adequate stretching helps reduce pain and soreness and lowers the chance of any muscle cramps. Every athlete’s biggest nightmare is an injury that stalls progress. Yoga dramatically reduces the risk of an injury and also lessens the rehabilitation time. Flexibility and posture contribute to crucial athletic abilities such as strength and speed. Flexibility has been a prime focus for professional athletes for decades now. Incorporating yoga in one’s strict regimes will not only contribute to increased flexibility but also to overall well-being.

Better Endurance

Yoga helps enhance blood circulation, the efficiency of motion, energy, digestion, strength, and increases lung capacity. Unknowingly, we do not use our lungs to their full capacity. Due to our lifestyles, we are so used to shallow breathing. Yoga helps in focusing on increasing the lung capacity with deep breathing exercising. Even during covid rehabilitation a great amount of emphasis is laid on expanding our lungs and increasing our breathing capacity. This is obviously invaluable to athletes.

Yoga benefits Heart Health

The recent incident of the Danish Midfielder Christian Eriksen, collapsing on the football field during the Euro 2020 match, goes to show the best of the athletes can face the threat of a cardiac problem. There are many such incidents of famous sports persons having cardiac issues at an early age due to various reasons. Playing sports on a competitive level can be really stressful and one should learn how to cope with it. Yoga reduces blood pressure as well as blood glucose and stress levels. Practicing yoga reduces the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.

Yoga and the feel-good hormone

At the end of every yoga session, you can feel a state of wellbeing, calmness, and bliss. That feeling is due to the release of the feel-good hormone, Endorphin. Scientists have found a direct correlation between meditation and the release of Endorphins. These happy hormones uplift one’s mood and leave one feeling energetic. With constant training and increasing pressure on athletes, yoga can be an effective tool to balance external and personal stressors, improve motivation and maintain mental endurance in competitive environments.

The benefits are endless. Athletes should incorporate yoga in their daily routine to reap its benefits. Besides these positives, yoga also teaches one to keep the child within us alive by the child-like movements. Yoga affects the organic body in inconceivable ways. The various asanas we maintain in yoga teach us to embrace the process and value whatever we have in life. Mastery in yoga can be achieved only by consistency which is no different from sports.

This Yoga Day, let us all pledge to make it a way of life!