The purpose of yoga is the joining together of mind, body and spirit through posture, breathing and meditation. For professional athletes this translates to a harmony that can increase strength, flexibility, balance and endurance. Ultraman top-finisher Rich Roll told Mind Body Green that irrespective of sport, every athlete should practice yoga as it has the potential to enhance their abilities. Athletes who also practice yoga have an enhanced peak performance and an advantage over those who do not practice. Yoga can also help in injury prevention and potentially extend an athletes’ career allowing them to retire later than normal.
Top flight players like Barcelona’s Lionel Messi practice yoga on a regular basis. Messi’s incredible abilities have made him one of the most successful footballers in the world. During his long career he has won numerous trophies at club level, and at international level reached the final of the 2014 World Cup. Ladbrokes reported that Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the final, but despite the loss Messi was awarded the Golden Ball for his performances during the tournament. Yoga helps him shape his explosive power, flexibility and agility, and has allowed him to continue playing at the highest level as one of the best to have ever played the sport.
Yoga has also helped former German national football team and Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to play competitively in the Premier League into his 40s. Lehmann retired at the age of 42 and said that it was yoga that allowed him to continue competing at that age. This is because it strengthened his hamstrings and helped prevent back injuries.
One of India’s past cricket coaches, John Wright, used yoga to remain unaffected by the pressures of competition and guide his team to success. Cricket is a different game compared to thirty or forty years ago, and the mental and physical pressures of the modern game can easily take a toll on players. Gulf News states that the physical and mental discipline gained through yoga can extend the careers of cricket players.
The body is limber, relaxed and allows for greater range of motion which can help prevent injury. The harmony which yoga creates between the mind and body also makes players react faster as well as become more relaxed and coordinated in their actions. It also allows players to take full control of their emotions and avoid being affected by the pressures of the game.
These aspects translate well to rugby where yoga is becoming an increasingly important aspect of training as well. Not only does it strengthen the body and core, but also helps in recovery of having fatigued and tight muscles after training sessions or a match. Coaches have said that yoga can put back into your body what rugby takes out, giving you that extra edge and allowing you play better and longer as you get older.
Tennis stars Serena Williams and Andy Murray swear by yoga as it has helped them recover from career threatening injuries. The appeal of yoga is that it is adaptable, works out both the mind and body, and improves athletic performance. Yoga is a slow burn and very low impact, unlike traditional high intensity workouts like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which involve intense bursts of exercise followed by active recovery periods as we detailed on Fitness for Everybody. Yoga improves concentration and creates a relaxed state of mind where the athlete is focused and clear in the present moment. It is critical for injury recovery and prevention and has been proven to extend the careers of many professional athletes.
Article specially written for FitnessForEverybody.co.uk