Off the Mat Yoga

Why Sports and Yoga Make a Perfect Match

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.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tarin

    March 5, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Great read! I was an athlete all through high school and college and definitely feel like I got to a point where I burnout. I wish I had discovered yoga back then because I can now see how important it REALLY is to warm up, cool down, & stretch (damn those annoying coaches .. turns out they were right). Even if you do yoga 10-15 minutes a day as part of your training routine, the benefits are never ending.

  2. Amanda

    Amanda

    March 6, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I always say I wish I’d discovered yoga when I was still competing in sports. It has taught me more about breathing and body control than all the gymnastics and high jumping ever did. There are great strength and injury-prevention benefits, but I think the breathing and mindset benefits are even more powerful for an athlete. And the awareness is starting to grow….I see articles every couple of weeks about high school and college teams, as well as pro athletes, who are incorporating yoga into their training. When I lived in Denver, I worked with three different college teams, and that was about 7 years ago. It’s happening! Athletes see the potential.

  3. Avatar

    lala

    September 19, 2019 at 3:22 am

    One of our schools we attend have a fun games morning for sports day and then the traditional competitive races/field events in the afternoon. The day runs smoothly and they do give out medals in the afternoon. I love the structure of the day and I completely agree that the competitive part of sports day shouldn’t be discouraged. PS; parents race should definitely be part of the day!

  4. Avatar

    lisa

    November 5, 2019 at 7:42 am

    oh that’s what i’ve heard. that the south is really serious about sports. hmmm…not sure where i’ll fit in that spectrum. i think it’s so different for girls than it is for boys. i just want my girlies to get some exercise and have fun. i don’t take anything to an extreme. but i do love passion so i get what you are saying about giving it your all. i don’t think that’s ever a bad thing.Bubble Soccer Party

  5. Avatar

    lisa

    December 14, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Football season is not as big a thing here in Canada, I think. I could be wrong. It sounds like it’s a *thing* in the US though…it has it’s own foods and fashion that go along with it.Sinyorbet

  6. Avatar

    jack

    December 18, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    I’m also reading Boys in the Boat! I had seen crew races before, but I didn’t realize all of the minute but oh-so-important details that go into a race. The strategy behind stroke rate during a race is so interesting to me. This was fascinating, Amanda. The idea of assertiveness training as part of your position was really interesting. Thank you for sharing your story.coded pushup board video

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