Yoga & Summer Sports by Stephanie Tencer #movementmonday
Around this time of year, a common question that I’m asked is, ‘can yoga improve my golf game’? In fact, I’ve been asked this same question regarding tennis, running marathons, triathlons, & team sports of all sorts. The simple but unequivocal answer…YES!!
In anticipation of the upcoming season, I thought it a great opportunity to explore both why and how yoga can improve athletic performance. First though, what exactly is yoga? While it’s not uncommon for yoga to be mistaken as simple stretching, in fact, it’s a multi-faceted & well-rounded practice. Not only can a yoga practice address physical targets like flexibility, stability, strength, speed, agility, and endurance, but also it can harness focus, concentration, and motivation, all of which most certainly can provide you with an edge for your summer sport of choice.
Yoga Guru BKS Iyengar explains that human beings have two types of intelligence: the intelligence of the head and the intelligence of the heart. In the context of sports, the intelligence of the head cultivates technical capability, while the intelligence of the heart cultivates the composure, stability, and grace needed to perform with excellence. Yoga brings harmony and balance to both aspects of intelligence. In any sport, every action, every motion, can benefit from this coordinated approach.
One of my favourite definitions of yoga comes from The Bhagavad Gita, which defines yoga as ‘skillfulness in action’. Understanding this concept, for me, has been quite literally, transformative. I’ve learned that yoga is not just about positioning the body in a particular shape. When I do an asana (aka a yoga pose) that requires for e.g. straight legs, the Yoga really begins once I start reflecting and responding. Is my left leg as straight as my right; is my inner leg lengthening as much as my outer leg; does my lower leg straighten faster than my upper leg? Training myself to become aware of such nuances has essentially ignited new awareness, and this process of internal reflection has proven to be an effective way of moving inward…finding wholeness, oneness, a sense of consolidation…or, in yogic terms ‘stilling the fluctuations of the mind’. However you describe the state that results, there is no doubt that yoga affects the state of your body, the state of your breath, & your state of mind. I think athletes from any discipline would agree that having such domain over body, breath, & mind can only be a boon to your performance.
Are you intrigued? Do you think that yoga has the potential to improve your golf/tennis/biking/swimming (etc.) performance? Check back over the next few weeks! Each week I will highlight specific poses that can complement a range of summer sports. Next week, we’ll focus on poses for FLEXIBILITY & SPEED.
Stephanie Tencer is an Iyengar-certified Yoga teacher and co-founder of Studio Po. Through Yoga, Stephanie has overcome chronic and debilitating back pain. Today, she continues to be inspired by the sense of playfulness and self-discovery that Iyengar Yoga affords. studiopoyoga.com