I’m pretty new to yoga. I have been doing 20 minutes of yoga 4(ish) mornings a week for just over a year…on average. I could go 4 weeks with nothing, and then flow every morning for 4 weeks. I use YouTube to practice, and more recently I have discovered the Bad Yogi movement. Since the new year I have found a new commitment to yoga, I am now practicing 6 or more days a week and LOVING it.

But I don’t hear much talk about yoga for amateur athletes. I love sports, particularly squash, but I also love to run, cycle and swim. I love to compete and always enjoy pushing myself in the gym and on the squash court. I, like many others, have put in lots of hard miles, lots of sessions grinding. Of course I have become fitter and improved athletically, but I always overlooked one thing: flexibility. I never warmed up, cooled down or looked at mobility as a way to improve.

We all like to improve at our chosen sport, but we are always told grinding in the gym or running farther is the answer. I have been on the wrong side of overtraining. I burnt myself out to the point where going to the gym almost brought me to tears. The result was me not enjoying sports, workouts, even food. Not good for the body or the mind.

My morning yoga routine has helped me fall back in love with squash and training. It granted me a small space where I was challenged, but gave me complete freedom. It allowed me space to think and learn that sports need to be a harmonious relationship with everyday life—even pros don’t play their sport 24/7. Finding yoga and doing a short burst daily made me just want to do it more, and as my hips slowly loosened I felt better on the court and in the gym.

Listening to your body is hard when the headphones are in and you’re lifting weights, running hills or jumping rope. It’s easy to listen to your body when you’re alone in your living room, stretching muscles you didn’t know were tight and that you have been further tightening with a brutal training regime.

Since starting yoga has my squash got better? Who knows; I’m my own worst critic. But do I feel better on court? Yes! Am I more relaxed about the result of the match? Yes! Am I calmer on court when the chips are down? Yes!

I started yoga for flexibility to improve my performance. Improving my squash game is a benefit I enjoy, but it’s no longer my focus. Sure, I’m more flexible, but yoga has also given me grounding, a calming wave, a discipline and routine to which I am not bound, but can enjoy. A lot of times, we lose sight of why we workout or play sports, even when workouts are supposed to be fun—we are not all professional athletes. But yoga brings the flexibility to pick it up, love it, miss a session… still love it. No personal trainer is going to be able to sell you that.

pbr