YOGA FOR SPORTSMEN
Yoga is popular among footballers, golfers, cricketers, tennis and basketball players and runners. Yoga has a range of benefits for professionals and amateurs alike. To train or play a sport needs fitness, persistence, resilience and focus. Yoga and meditation can help work on these aspects and enhance the performance of a sportsperson.
Stiffness in joints (such as ankles, knees, shoulders, hips) and muscles such as gluteus, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles can lead to sprains, injuries, stress fractures etc. Flexibility is a key component in preventing injury. Stretching before a sport prepares the muscles for the activity while stretching after sports has proven to prevent injuries. Training for hours and days together takes a toll on the body leaving it tender, sore, tired and stiff. This is generally referred to as delayed onset of muscle sores (DOMS) which lasts anywhere between 24 to 72 hours. Yoga is the best way to stretch and relax the entire body. A concrete sequence of backward bends, forward bends, spinal twists and postures for relaxation can help the body stay flexible, agile and relaxed.
Since the body goes through a lot of wear and tear, recovery is one of the most important aspects for a sportsperson. It refers to the techniques or methods to maximize the body’s repair. Recovery comprises of various aspects such as active or passive stretching, proper nutrition, hydration, rest and psychological recovery. The body has to recover at many levels- structural, hormonal and mental. Structural system includes muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. Hormonal recovery refers to how quickly your body can rid itself of stress hormones and generate hormones which can assist the body in repair. Mental fatigue can be dealt with through rest and stress management. While yoga postures, bandhas (locks) and mudras (gestures) can help in structural and hormonal recovery, breathing techniques and meditation take care of the mental fatigue.
Strength and Stability
Yoga postures can help improve core strength and stability. Yoga also emphasizes on a flexible, strong and healthy spine like no other form of exercise. This can help avoid spinal injuries and maintain a good posture. It is also proven that yoga can drastically improves coordination skills and mental balance. Ambidexterity (state of being equally adept at using right and left side) is a valued asset in a sportsperson.
Lung capacity is of prime importance for a sportsperson. It is described as the maximum volume of air filled in the lungs. The breathing techniques in yoga can increase lung capacity and oxygen absorption. Oxygen absorption is the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can absorb. Right breathing can help increase oxygen absorption in the body. It also boosts the metabolic activity, cardiovascular system, nervous activity and increases energy levels tremendously. Various breathing practices such as bhastrika, kapalbhati and anulom-vilom pranayama help improve lung and cardiovascular capacity.
Mental well being
A sportsperson puts his mind also through the same amount of stress and strain as the body. The focus, stability, persistence and resilience required on his part influence the course of his career.
Many teams have yoga and life coaches to guide their players or athletes. Yoga will help such a player or athlete to keep stress levels in check through breathing and meditation practices. It can also help him stay calm and composed and work better with a team in order to achieve his goals. A sportsperson must not lose out on enjoying his wins and life while he is busy chasing his goals and trophies.
If you’re into sports, take one hour out for yoga 3 times a week, with at least 30- 40 minutes to focus on stretching and 20 minutes to focus on breathing and meditation techniques.