If you enjoy playing sport at any level, then I truly believe that yoga has something to offer you.
After the widely publicised inclusion of yoga into their regular training regime by the likes of Ryan Giggs (professional footballer, Manchester United and Wales), Andy Murray (professional tennis player, former Wimbledon champion and Olympic gold medallist) and Bradley Wiggins (professional cyclist, 2012 Tour de France winner), along with a host of other elite-level athletes, many of the yoga sceptics have been silenced.
And it’s not just a few individual sports men and women who have adopted the practice. World-class coaches and managers of football teams such as the 2014 Premiership Champions, Manchester City, and recent high-fliers Southampton FC and West Ham United have all seen fit to introduce yoga to their players, as have those working with the likes of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby union team and various Olympic coaches in disciplines ranging from swimming to weightlifting.
So what are the benefits to us mere mortals who perhaps enjoy a weekly game of tennis, a regular round of golf or a session of mountain biking or road cycling?
For many of us, the key advantages of incorporating some regular yoga into our general wellbeing regime include:
- Optimized movement and increased flexibility
- Increased core strength/stability
- Improved posture
- Better relaxation strategies
- Increased protection from injury
- Improved breath control
- Shorter recovery time
- Sharper focus
No-one will promise that yoga can transform you from a keen amateur or enthusiastic club competitor into a world beater, but it will increase your chances of staying fitter for longer, avoiding some of those niggling aches and pains, and recovering from minor injuries a little bit faster. And with the increased flexibility and core stability that yoga brings, you have every chance of improving your overall performance level in whatever sport you enjoy.
The use of breathing techniques in yoga also helps us make that all-important mind/body connection; when we’re in the flow of our yoga postures, we use the breath to keep us focused, offering instant access to the “rest and digest” part of our autonomic nervous system. The more relaxed and focused we are on the mat, the more energy we conserve for the times when we really need it off the mat!
Back to Ryan Giggs: “My body feels so much better having done the yoga … I still get the odd hamstring strain, which you are going to get playing football, but it wasn’t about curing the problem, but making it less frequent. I wish I had done it from the start of my career.”
Over the coming months here at the Integrated Wellbeing site, we’ll take a look at some specific postures and series that can help those of you playing a particular sport enjoy it just that little bit more. And as we’re one of the main 2015 sponsors of current North East champions, the Team WattCycle road-cycling team, cycling is likely to be near the top of that list!
I currently teach two yoga classes each week at the Ocean Physio and Rehab Clinic at Woodbury near Exeter. The Ocean team has experience of working with those suffering from various sporting injuries, including members of the Exeter Chiefs rugby union team, the English golf team and the Devon cricket team, as well as a number of elite-level sports men and women and Olympic competitors. More information about my current class schedule and the Ocean team’s expertise can be found at www.oceanphysio.com.
I believe that incorporating a regular yoga practice into your schedule can increase both your enjoyment of your favourite sports and your level of performance.
And for those of you who are interested in exploring the role of yoga in sport more deeply, there are now numerous yoga teachers across the UK (and the rest of the world) who offer expertise via classes and courses specifically aimed at sports people. Head over to Google now to find a class in your area, and let me know in the comments section below how you get on!
Oh, and guys, in case you hadn’t realised, this one is definitely for you too. I’m seeing more and more men turning up to classes and they all come back for more ☺. So, if in doubt, banish thoughts of lycra and getting yourself stuck in some pretzel shape and find a class and teacher that suit you.
With love and wellbeing wishes,