Many Yoga exercises and techniques derived from the Yoga practices are presented as a way of achieving greater synthesis of body and mind and increased ability for rejuvenating the body. Sports training also requires a holistic approach, unifying the body and mind through Yoga. It is required while aiming for the top competitive results as well as when seeking a greater sense of well-being and deeper union of body, mind and spirit. Yoga exercises and techniques derived from Yoga indirectly affect technical and tactical preparation, since they also have significant, direct effects on the physical, psychological, theoretical preparation and on the regeneration of the strength process. Yoga asanas can be used for warm-up, cooling down, regeneration, compensation of muscle imbalances, synthesis of mind and body, activation or deactivation of the body and as supplemental exercises.
Various psychological preparations make the athlete ready for the upcoming competition. The ultimate goal of psychological preparation is self-control of the emotions and control of the mind. In order to control both, it is required for a person to first understand them. One must learn to listen to the body and body language and also understand the mind and how it works. The four necessary basic steps towards self-mastery are as follows:
1. Body Awareness (Body Control)
2. Breath Awareness (Breath Control)
3. Attention Focus (Self-Discipline) and
The necessary exercises for daily practice include:
Step 1: Body Awareness (Control)
o Sitting still steadily (calming the body).
o Small battery of Yoga asanas.
Step 2: Breath Awareness (Control)
o Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing.
o Complete Yoga breathing.
o Alternate nostril breathing.
o The double “R” breath.
Step 3: Attention Focus
o Breath awareness focus.
o Practicing Yoga asana with full attention.
o Practicing activities daily with full attention.
Step 4: Concentration
One should make it a habit to include all the four basic steps as a part of his/her regular warm up and cool-down routine. After doing the same for a few minutes, one can achieve several tasks at once: practicing relaxation, concentration, attention focus, stretching and physical and mental warm-up & cool down routine. Due to the synthesis of the mind and body, many positive advantages can be achieved by practicing Yoga.
There is an interrelationship among the four basic exercises. Body awareness facilitates breath awareness and conversely, breath awareness facilitates body awareness. Similarly, body and breath awareness facilitates attention focus and the latter facilitates body awareness and leads to the development of concentration. Thus, practicing each step facilitates the improvement of the remaining others.
Meditation for Athletes
After practicing and mastering the four basic steps, one should start practicing meditation and autogenic training. Since all these steps have the same goal: to extend one’s potential, to learn autonomic control through passive concentration, to restore and maintain one’s physical and mental balance and to alter one’s mind-body synthesis. Thus, one of the reasons, as to why most athletes choose Yoga techniques, among the many offered, is to instill pleasant feelings in one’s self.
Athletes should also combine their practice of Yoga asanas with some type of aerobic exercises like running, swimming, walking, jogging, biking, etc, which are very useful, but it is also possible to use some Yoga asanas for aerobic workout as well. Since such exercises always rejuvenate and re-energize the body. Athletes should keep practicing them as it can improve their sports performance and their quality of life.