By Mollie Wilson
Being an athlete is hard. It is demanding. It's probably one of the toughest things out there to be. Sometimes people get this notion that athletes are basically having fun. Earning cool money while having fun. The dream life and not the 9-5 kind of job they have to turn up at. "Imagine getting paid for recreation! "They are wrong. Remember the time you went on that race and started panting after a while all out of breath. Or The time you went for what you wanted to be an intensive workout only for every fibre of muscle in your whole body to scream out in intense burning pain. Well, being an athlete is tougher than that. Way more demanding. It's a different ball game entirely so to speak.
Being an athlete demands a mix of endurance, perseverance, dedication and commitment. It also demands an unwavering positive belief and a serenity of mind. You need all these qualities if you are going to succeed as an athlete. If you are going to beat the many obstacles that come your way as an athlete. You need them and more if you are going to bounce back from the injuries and come back fit to compete again.
Yoga, a systematic practice that involves meditation, breath control, positive thinking, exercise, and relaxation, is able to provide many of these key traits that can determine if an athletic career is fulfilling or not. This ancient discipline provides a broad range of physical, spiritual, and mental training to its adherents and with its proven consistency in getting positive results, it is hardly surprising that Yoga has a lot of people who not only love it but are also dedicated partakers of it, myself included.
When I say myself, I chuckle a bit because my relationship with Yoga wasn't the conventional love at first sight stuff. It wasn't that I hated it or disliked the practice, it was simply that I was skeptical. I just did not see how sitting down in one corner, or on a mat, staring blankly into space (as I saw it then, I know better now) was going to help me become a better athlete or even a better person. In my opinion then, it simply showed that I had lots of idle time on my hands to blow sitting down in one corner and being unproductive. And athletes do not have lots of idle time. Between the strenuous training and exercise sessions which can take up a lot of time and energy, there wasn't even enough time to fulfil everyday life tasks and domestic duty. Definitely I thought, no time to spend laying on a mat, doing nothing useful. I just did not see the value in Yoga then and was consequently very skeptical of the concept.
How wrong I was.
That was what I would discover when I came to fully appreciate the immense benefits of Yoga. Me falling in love with Yoga was a classic case of an unpleasant situation somehow leading one to discover something good previously hidden to them. It was a process brought about by my Injuries.
Injuries are part of an athlete's life. They are almost inevitable in occurring at some point. The reason for this is not far-fetched. An athlete’s body takes a lot of punishment. A lot of stretching to the limits and conditioning. An immense amount of output is consistently demanded from the muscles and joints of an athlete. And despite the fact that as athletes, we learn how to condition our bodies to withstand a lot of stress and strain so as to be able to put out top notch performance, and consequently, are bodies become capable of withstanding higher levels of demand than that of a regular person, it still doesn't become unbreakable. So, injuries still happen.
After a particularly nasty injury of mine, my body was so badly broken in that I had serious doubts if I would be able to come back. Was I ever going to be able to stretch again with the same elegance as before? Was my body going to bounce back to normal healthy levels? I had doubts.
That's where my love story with Yoga begins. Someone suggested Yoga along with certain other things I was to do as I went into physical therapy in an attempt to bounce back. He promised if I followed it, I would be back on my feet in far less time than I initially expected. With some doubt at the beginning (after all I had just flippantly tried out yoga a few times in the past, and unsurprisingly didn't find it fulfilling), I began it. This time I had a solid purpose to drive me, so I dedicated myself to my yoga practices.
Long story short, it worked. It worked even better than I had expected. My yoga practices were extremely in getting me back on form. Especially the stretching exercises and the mind exercises. After getting back, I fully incorporated Yoga into my post workout regime for the remainder of my career. Now I'm retired from active athletics but I'm still a dedicated to the practice of Yoga. Even more, now that I get to dedicate more time to it, I have now had a greater appreciation of its immense benefit especially how it has helped me cope with the resurgence of old injuries picked up during my career. Sometimes the old injuries become inflamed and that can be quite painful. I find out that Yoga along with application of coconut + CBD oil, (which you might want to check out here if you are interested.) Helped to a great extent in my recovery from inflammation. As it did during the times, I was learning to stretch again using yoga during my recovery period. All in all, I'm just really grateful I discovered Yoga as it not only proved valuable during my career, it has also continued to be of immense benefit to me even after my career. I would encourage all athlete, at any level, to partake in Yoga not only as a recovery practice but also as preventative care for your mental and physical body.