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.
Yoga and meditation have gained popularity over the years as a low-impact way to keep the body and mind healthy, but many people are intimidated by the thought of learning a new exercise. Seniors can often have a hard time putting together a new routine, especially if they have health or mobility issues. Yet, yoga is one of the easiest workouts to break into because it’s low-impact, and it can be molded to fit just about anyone’s needs. In fact, individuals who are living with a disability or who have an existing health condition may find that it’s one of the best ways to exercise simply because it allows for modifications that make movement easier.
When paired with yoga, meditation can be a wonderful way to keep anxiety or stress under control, and creating a routine that allows you to do it daily can help you learn to cope with those feelings when they arise. Boosting your mental health is crucial as you get older, as it helps keep you safe from the symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.
Not surprisingly, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to finding an exercise routine that works for your needs. Here are just a few things to think about.
You Can Do It from the Comfort of Your Own Home
Yoga classes are likely available in your area, but one of the benefits of learning the poses is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Once you’re comfortable with establishing a routine, all you need is a space to practice in and maybe a yoga mat for comfort. If you have a spare room you’re not using, such as a dining room or extra bedroom, this can be the perfect spot for your practice. You can use YouTube tutorial videos and fitness apps to supplement your workout at home and keep yourself motivated to continue with a healthy routine.
Improve Balance and Stability
Yoga focuses on balance and strengthening your core, which is great news for seniors who have mobility issues. By practicing the poses every day, you can build up your balance and stability, which can, in turn, help prevent falls — the leading cause of injury to seniors. Just make sure you’re stable during your workout; you can use a chair to help with balance if you feel unsteady.
Your ability to reduce stress and remain calm can seriously affect everything from your heart health to your mood, making yoga one of the best ways there is to impact your overall well-being. When combined with meditation, yoga can help you relax, focus on your breathing, and put the stresses of the day behind you, so make sure your practice space is free of distractions. Listen to soft music, dim the lights, and focus on yourself for the entirety of your workout. You’ll be doing your body — and mind — a favor!
Help Your Gut
Among yoga’s many benefits, one of the most overlooked is the fact that it can help with digestion and stomach issues. Many studies show that the state of our overall health depends on gut health, and digestion is one aspect that is affected by both good and bad gut bacteria. When your gut houses plenty of good bacteria, your immune system and mood also improve. So, when you practice yoga regularly, you’re setting up your body and mind for good overall health.
Because of the nature of many of the poses and the way they work your abdominal muscles, you’ll likely see an improvement in the way your body handles certain foods. One unexpected side effect of this is that it can help you sleep better, reducing the risk of heartburn and allowing you to rest easy through the night.
Yoga and meditation can have multiple benefits regardless of your age and abilities; the key is to start things off right by finding a routine that works best for you. Remember to go slowly and to stop if you feel any pain. By combining a workout for your body and mind at the same time, you’ll be able to focus on your wellness every day.