The clock is ticking. The scores are even. The tension is palpable as all eyes rest on your every movement, every expression. You can sense the hope, fear, excitement, and expectation in the very air around you. You know you have to drown out the noise – the pleas, cheers, boos, hoots, everything. Your focus must be singular and undivided, as what you do now will decide your future…

As a sports player, at some time, you will face this situation. The stakes may be different, and the challenge is unique each time. Nonetheless, the goal remains the same – to deliver a superlative performance in the face of all odds. To do this with a steadfast and calm mind would be the icing on the cake. It is a formidable challenge at any stage, and herein lies the role of yoga in sports.

Yoga has become an inseparable part of training for sports players. Whether you are an athlete, swimmer, tennis player or ballplayer, the role of yoga in sports is indispensable. If you are wondering why, come and explore the wide-ranging benefits that yoga has for sports.

Benefits of yoga for sportspersons

Depending on the sport, players are required to twist, turn, lunge, jump, run, stretch and bend quickly and suddenly. Sometimes, even awkwardly. This increases the chances of a wrong step. Enter yoga to the rescue!

Yoga teaches you to balance, be poised and be disciplined. It makes your body fit enough to perform these moves. It also trains your mind to be patient and steady. How can it do that? Read on.

  1. Yoga helps prevent strains and sprains: Yoga asanas help relax taut muscles. It also stretches and strengthens various body parts, opening the hips, back and chest. The different bends and stretches reduce the chance of wear and tear, muscle pulls and sprains.
  2. Yoga reduces your recovery time: Sleep and rest are not enough after a long and gruelling physical session. Yoga helps you relax your tired body and mind in an effective and peaceful manner. This is because asanas are performed systematically and gracefully. This helps remove the tension in your body and enhances the chances of a quick recovery.
  3. Yoga enhances your sense of balance: Asanas like the vrikshasana or tree pose and virabhadrasana or warrior poses help develop balance in you. Poise and balance are required physically and mentally. Yoga also helps you maintain posture and stability, as is required in gymnastics, archery, and shooting.

Yoga strengthens your mental resolve and stops the negative mental chatter. You believe you can go beyond your body with the strength of your mind.

  1. Yoga helps you conquer your demons: Sports is not a purely physiological exercise. There is a huge mental battle you must prepare for. Yoga helps you steel your nerves when you are tense.
  2. Yoga makes you intuitive and single-minded: Sports presents many occasions where you need to think on your feet. All your earlier preparations and predictions may go haywire, and you may need to start from scratch. At such a time, you need a clear head to determine your next move. The discipline of yoga enables objective thinking.
  3. Yoga helps you control your breathing: Many sports require you to exert yourself. Your stamina depends on how much oxygen goes in, a function of the breathing process. Pranayamas teach you to control your breath. A handy tool when you are swimming underwater or eyeing the finish line of the marathon.
  4. Yoga helps you get in shape: It tones your body, making it lithe and flexible and, hence, easier to train. Yoga also helps in weight loss, which helps you move faster.
  5. Yoga unites your inner and outer self: Yoga does more than just improve your speed and reflexes. The ultimate role of yoga in sports is, essentially, to unite the mind, body, and spirit. This, in turn, enhances your focus and precision.

Yoga and sports players: Who practices?

  • Andy Murray
  • Tommy Hass
  • Ana Ivanovic
  • Lin Dan
  • P V Sindhu
  • Saina Nehwal
  • Kidambi Srikanth
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • LeBron James

How yoga brightens the dark side of sports

Ask any sportsperson what his or her biggest nightmare is, and you will probably hear a unanimous chorus – INJURY! Nothing can be as difficult as sitting on the bench or lying in a hospital when championships are underway. This is another reason for yoga and sports to go hand in hand.

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Yoga helps you sport a smile on the road back

Even a few months out of the sports scene is equivalent to years of a setback in the world of sports. Your body needs time to recover to prevent a recurrence or escalation. Many times, just resting may not be enough to get back to your original form and fitness.

With yoga, sports players are able to gradually tone and strengthen their body. Yoga also helps you deal with the mental pressure of missing out on some of the best playing years. It trains your mind to accept your situation and coaxes you to make a strong comeback.

There is no questioning the importance of yoga for enduring sports performances. However, do not look for overnight miracles. Anything worth acquiring takes time and patience. The benefits of yoga are similar; they manifest over time. You must be consistent and regular in your practice before seeking results.

The Sri Sri Yoga program can get you started on a range of yoga asanas to enhance physical and mental fitness. The program includes pranayamas and meditation, which will enable holistic development.