I have a secret for you. One that will improve your ability in work and play. If you play sport, it will certainly increase your ability, whatever your chosen sport. Improved speed, balance, motivation and focus, just to name a few things.
But here’s the best bit…it won’t just benefit you physically, but you will see just as much if not more in an improvement in your mental ability.
We’ve all been there…We’ve all felt the pressure when placing the golf ball on the tee, or lining up that tricky but hole winning put on the 18th green. If golf is not your thing, then you may have felt it when putting the football on the penalty spot for that all important, much needed goal.
At work the deadline is looming and you can’t see the wood through the trees, with so much to get done. That vitally important presentation for the Board, which will make or break your chances at getting that promotion you’ve been working so hard for.
Best of all you don’t need to invest in any expensive equipment, no club joining fees, no special uniform or kit required at all. It’s something you can ALL do, and it’s something from which you will reap the rewards from day one. It’s not something you need to do every day, although I guarantee you will take the best bits and utilise them every day.
Sounds too good to be true…well here’s the catch guys (and you knew there would be one) this thing is…YOGA
Let me guess a few of the things that may have just come into your mind; and explain why I believe those views should be challenged
‘I’m not flexible enough for yoga’
First of all, when you first looked into your hobby/sport of choice, I’m willing to bet you didn’t say, ‘oh there’s no point in me going to golf/football because I can’t hit a ball straight enough or far enough’. Of course not, we recognise that we have this amazing ability to learn, to improve with practise. So naturally, the more you practice yoga the more flexible you will become.
That statement in itself misses the point anyway, because being able to practice yoga isn’t about who can bend the most or who can tie themselves into a knot first. It’s non-competitive (I know generally we love competition, but seriously have a day off). You, as an individual, will gain the same benefit as a more flexible person, because it’s all about what YOU can do. There is no ‘he’s better than me’, sure there will be poses you need to work towards and there will be poses you’ll never be able to do how you may like to, but you don’t quit golf/football because you can’t hit the ball as hard or as far as Tiger/Messi.
‘It’s for women, it’s not a man’s thing’
Now I know the image of Yoga in this country is one of village halls and middle-aged women or bikini clad models on the beach. But what do you expect if you don’t give it a try? Granted, the split is approximately 75% women and 25% men, depending on the area. London and major cities tend to have a greater mix, but this is changing and will continue to. Besides, what kind of 19th Century thinking is that? Seriously.
‘I don’t have the time for that’
Re-read my first few paragraphs and tell me again you don’t have time for something that will benefit you that much. Disagree? Then you are probably kidding yourself.
I get it though, we are all busy and the days, weeks, months and years fly by. However, the busier we become, the more important it is to take quality time out. The bonus of a yoga class is that the time spent will give you the space and time to bring renewed and refreshed concentration to your work.
‘All those weird positions don’t do anything and aren’t for me’
Forget what you think you know about yoga, forget the preconceived ideas you have and the images from the 70s of ladies in leotards and leggings with dodgy perms in all sorts of positions. Open your mind.
What are the poses anyway? Well, stretching and strengthening pretty much, but more than that. It is like stretching and working your muscles to gain control over them and your whole body. Wouldn’t it be good to know how to stretch out that tight hamstring or sore lower back with knowledge passed down from hundreds of years of practice rather than Dave the sometime ‘physio’ down the footy club?
‘I’d look and feel stupid’
I bet you’re one of those guys who says, ‘no, no I don’t dance’, and then spends the night sitting in the corner hugging your pint watching the other guys enjoy themselves on the dance floor.
Seriously though, everyone is too involved in their own practice to be bother about how you look.
I’m willing to bet at least one of those things is at the forefront of your mind. The frustrating thing is, these things are not true and by holding onto these thoughts, you are missing out.
I’m no yoga teacher, I practise with Vicky at Equanimity Yoga once a week, and have been doing so for possibly a couple of years now. I’m a small business owner, have a young family and a busy life with all that these things entail, but I religiously ensure I make the time available for my yoga practise. I do so because when I stop or miss a session or two, I really do notice and feel the difference in my quality of life. Yes physically, but far more from a mental health perspective. My one hour yoga session is time out - time out from work, from the demands of family life and if I’m honest, it is time out from the world. In that hour, there is just me and my focus.
If like millions of other people, stress management is part of your life, then trust me yoga is the answer.
I’m not going to tell you too much about how focussing on breathing and relaxing into the poses using my breath benefits me, because it’s getting dangerously close to spiritual talk…which can end conversations.
If you’ve been paying attention, you are probably thinking this all sounds well and good but how’s that going to improve my sporting ability? In my opinion, as well as greater balance, co-ordination, flexibility and the reducing the chance of getting injuries, the mental improvement is the big factor.
Personally, I have stood on that tee looking at that little white golf ball and felt the pressure.
If you’ve done the same you will know how any tension in the body and any doubt in the mind makes the simple task of hitting that little white ball successfully much more difficult. So what do I do? Simple, I take some well-practised deeps breaths. Sounds a bit mumbo-jumbo? Well why not try it for yourself, the worst that can happen is you decide it’s really not for you and never return… the best thing that can happen however could be amazing!