I have been thinking about how yoga can complement other activities we do in life, including sports.
There are many sports for which yoga is a good counter activity: boxing, football, rock climbing , martial arts, cycling… to name just a few and, in a general class, you are likely to find people who choose to practise yoga because they feel it combines really well with a particular sport and who are completely sold on the physical and mental benefits and the fact it helps them prevent further injuries.
To take a typical example, runners find yoga useful for developing flexibility and stretching their hamstrings, but also strengthening muscles they don’t use in running and restoring balance to the body.
People who have forfeited flexibility at the expense of developing strength such as weight trainers are also likely to find yoga tremendously beneficial with its combination of non competitive, non aggressive movement; unforced, healthy breathing and relaxation.
It occurs to me that I see quite a few people who regularly play golf and who either attend yoga classes or come along for weekly sessions of 121 yoga because of lower back problems which have developed over the years and which, as well as being potentially painful and restrictive, hinder their ability to play golf.
On doing a rather brief Internet search into this, it seems that lower back pain is the most common golf injury- (other conditions being elbow, shoulder, foot and knee pain.)
Unsurprisingly overuse injuries tend to occur as we get older because the joint and tendon tissues are less able to withstand stress. An existing back condition could be aggravated by playing golf for various reasons, not least by the golf swing from one side of the body so that asymmetry is inherent in the sport, but also carrying equipment and bending down to retrieve the ball.
Yoga can be very helpful for improving and maintaining back health with its mixture of mindful stretching, strengthening, good breathing and relaxation.
Moving toward symmetry and balance -unlike in many sports- is also very important in yoga and tends to become an intuitive process that we can develop.
In addition yoga really is suitable for every body type. It can be started at any age regardless of physical condition.
What makes it a particularly compelling and useful for sports people is the fact that it has a mental aspect, teaching us to move and act from the present moment. It helps us tune into our body and better cordinate actions, so that breath and body awareness become second nature.
Who knows, it might even help you reduce your handicap!