How many athletes who take the podium this Tokyo Olympic Games do you think include yoga in their strength and conditioning training?
Totally inspired by Aussie swimmer, Ariarne Titmus, winning the 400-metre and 200-metre freestyle events (yes I'm Australian!), I thought it important to shine a light on the number of sports people turning to yoga to help them draw on resources that could be giving them that mere second advantage over their opponents.
Whether you're an Olympic athlete or simply love a leisurely stroll on a Saturday morning, here are five reasons yoga can potentially improve how you perform in everyday life.
Breathing power: If we're talking about swimming, I think the first benefit we can't ignore is the power of breath, noting that how we breathe has a direct impact on how we perform. Each sport has different respiratory requirements, and if we use swimming as an example, lung capacity and efficiency improve because the respiratory muscles must strengthen from the impact of water immersion. When harnessed, can allow athletes to generate more power, perform more efficiently and manage nerves. Check out our blog on one specific breathing technique we use in yoga.
Sound healing: As the world around us gets louder, healing rituals involving calming sounds are becoming a popular way to mentally focus. The Tokyo Olympic Games are a reminder of this. Athletes are tuning into soothing sound before they race to prevent exhaustion, and post-race to assist with recovery. Wind chimes, sound bowls (pictured), and ocean noises like the natural ones we provide at our Sunset House outdoor studio, are just some of the many sounds that can take the body from extreme stress into a deeply tranquil state. A 2016 study found that Tibetan singing bowl meditation may be a feasible low-cost low technology intervention for reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression.
Less strain for more gain: Rather than overtrain and push to injury, yoga allows athletes to move with more control, and explore different movement patterns to maximise results efficiently and build their capacity to boost over performance. Similarly, if you're sitting at your desk and need to turn around to grab a folder from the shelf behind you, being aware of core engagement, and shoulder and neck mobility, means that when turning around with control you'll be using supportive muscles in the twist to avoid injury to lower back, shoulder or neck.
Sensory awareness: Whether it's through a rapid change of movement or hand-eye coordination, each sport requires spatial awareness. This means tuning into the environment around you, and the obstacles it contains, to ensure optimum results without injury. Simply being aware of where you place your foot when walking to avoid rolling an ankle is just one example.
Relaxation techniques: We've thread this important point into several of our previous Activ Life blogs. Spending a few quiet screen-less moments to yourself before bed is certainly going to help you get a better night's sleep. Those athletes that have learnt to relax and switch off are generally more refreshed and ready to perform to their highest level. This applies to the level of focus you bring to work, and the efficiency in which you achieve tasks, to give you more time to read your favourite book before bed. You'll find more in our Sweet Dreams blog. Beat the burnout with the Activ Life.
Control, awareness, breath, meditation and relaxation are priorities in each and every Activ Life wellness class and we can't wait to share our experiences and learn from you in our next session, whether that be in person on online via the Activ Life Online Studio.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Why Savasana matters and Good vibrations.