No matter which sport you practice, yoga can improve your performance. As we all know, excelling at a particular sport involves not only physical ability, but mental focus as well. Yoga offers many techniques to help you improve on both fronts.
Yoga asanas include a wide variety of physical postures that work the entire body, building both strength and flexibility, which are important in most sports. Extra strength gives us more power, whether we’re running, biking, swinging a racquet, or paddling on the water. Greater flexibility makes us more agile and helps us feel more comfortable in our bodies, both at play and at rest. It’s also far easier to avoid injury when our muscles are both strong and flexible—and that keeps us in the game longer. After all, who wants to be sidelined for weeks or months nursing an injury that could have been prevented?
Whether you’re a newbie or an expert in your chosen sport, focus is essential. For example, surfing requires focus on timing, positioning, and making split-second decisions that are essential to keeping you safe. Most competitive sports require a high level of focus. Yoga’s various practices increase your ability to focus. With asanas, you focus on carefully moving into and out of the poses, noticing how your body feels so you can adjust the pose as needed. If you’re doing pranayama (yoga breathing), your focus may be on the breath moving rhythmically in and out of the body. In Yoga Sound Meditation, your attention is focused on the Yoga Sounds, hearing them, repeating them, bringing them into your heart, while at the same time letting go of other thoughts that wander in. This focus is essential even when letting go of tension in the body during yoga relaxation. This ability to concentrate serves us well when we turn to our favorite sport. After all, getting distracted by an outside thought can cost us points, the game, an injury, or at the very least, disappointment in ourselves. On the other hand, focus gives us a strong mental game, determination to improve, and often the edge.
Practical Hints for Better Performance
- Practice the poses you feel weak in more often. You may not like doing them, but if you persist they’ll soon become easier. Start out with short holds and build up gradually—never strain.
- If you notice that one side of your body is tighter than the other, spend more time stretching the muscles on the tight side. For example, if you can twist further to one side than the other, when you practice spinal twists (like Wraparound Twist, for example) twist more often to the opposite side or hold the pose a little longer on the tight side.
- Be sure to do yoga breathing or Yoga Sound Meditation regularly to help focus your mind.
By adding yoga techniques to your exercise regime (my Easy Series DVDs offer a variety of techniques that are helpful for all kinds of sports), you can balance strength with flexibility, increase your mental focus, and improve your game. Have fun!