Mindfulness and meditation are techniques often interwoven in mental performance training for athletes. Athletes tend to be kinesthetic learners. Because sport is all about movement, training techniques don’t just happen in the office; ideally, they’re integrated directly into physical training. In line with the Reaching Ahead Mental Performance emphasis on self-attunement, martial arts have long been a physical means of developing deeper philosophic and spiritual understanding. As a long-time practitioner and student of various martial arts, I’ve been amazed at the similarities between modern day sport performance methods, and ancient spiritual practices, such as Yoga or Tai Chi. The foundation of many techniques is the breath.
Tuning into the breath, staying present, and being aware of your body, noticing both movement and sensations, are key components of Yoga. Yoga is an ancient Hindu practice, created to challenge the body and the mind, and to enhance awareness, through physically demanding poses. This heightened awareness of the present experience, is mindfulness. Mindfulness allows for athletes to let thoughts about past and future fade into the background while being in tune with present events, enabling fluid movements and faster/better decisions. Improving on these abilities has huge implications for performance; so many errors occur when athletes over-think, or are too slow in reacting to an event or a big play.
It is difficult to add new training methods to the schedule. So why bother adding yoga to your routine? Yoga can augment any physical and mental training program, tying together much of what is learned in either context. Intuitively, it seems the ability to generalize skills learned from a mental performance coach, like Dr. Herzog, to the field or court can be facilitated by practicing them in a low stress physical activity, like yoga. Then, using the skills while in motion and under stress should be easier in in practices and then also in games.
Further, recovery for any athlete is vital; yoga can help you to heal and reset from an intense practice or game. Yoga poses allow for the stretching and activation of all muscle groups. This not only helps with flexibility and mobility, but also allows you to attend to sore or injured areas. Knowing and feeling your body’s needs is key to proper recovery! Additionally, many poses require body positions that are initially uncomfortable. By gaining “comfort with discomfort,” you not only improve your core strength and balance, but also your capability to perform big plays and contort your body while remaining safe, strong, and injury free. Looking for a place to practice these skills? PEAK Custom Fitness Solutions offers yoga for all levels every Thursday from 6:30-7:30 p.m.! The class is led by certified instructor, Ruthie O’Hehir. You can find more information here or contact Ruthie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
So why yoga? Even just 30-60 minutes of yoga practice per week can provide tangible benefits that will carry over to sport performance! It augments physical and mental training, and recovery from practice or games. Yoga practice emphasizes breath control and mindfulness, helps athletes tune into the present moment and their body sensations to understand it’s limits and capabilities, to recover better, and to enhance concentration!