Yoga, by definition, is an assembly of physical, mental, and spiritual practices when done together with controlled breathing, mediation, and postures of the body evoke health, wellness and relaxation within the body and mind.
Yoga originated in India but is now practiced around the world as a tool to bring “unity” to body, breath, and mind aligning with the spirit present inside all people. Yoga, meaning “union” in Sanskrit, describes that everything exists in a harmonious connection. With the practice of Yoga, we are able to find this connection within ourselves leading to a sense of well-being, health and peace. Yoga is meant to help you discover who you are and to connect to the deepest part of yourself that you may not know yet and to translate that into your life and the world.
The ancient arts of Judo and Yoga both refer to a “way of life” or a connection of the things that give you life: your breath, your mind and spirit, and your movements. Both arts or practices require technique, precision, and repetition of movements until they are done perfectly.
When Jigoro Kano created Judo, the moral code and foundation was to emphasized the value of training with specific technique for defense and attack to be a “way of life” that all be people could practice and perfect.
Similarly, Yoga is a connection of the mind, body, and soul, or the life and breath of an individual. It is practiced through movements and techniques. Yoga’s philosophy becomes a “way of life” or the passion for those who consistently practice.
As a way to enhance and complement physical performance, athletes use Yoga to connect their bodies and minds. Just as in many martial arts with ancient philosophy and deep tradition, Yoga influences the mood and mental capacity of athletes. Yoga is used as a supplemental training to improve Judo and other martial art technique. It has been said that mediation should be the natural result of Judo and for a judoka to develop to their full potential the art of mediation and Yoga should be incorporated into training.
Yoga forces the mind to engage the body: athlete gain a competitive edge through Yoga practice:
• Strength: Increasing strength through Yoga as a supplement to your typical training routine, an athlete can become stronger in all parts of body. Regularly holding one’s body weight up strengthen muscles without over exerting them.
• Flexibility and Range of Motion: By increasing the muscles ability to stretch or their flexibility, many injuries can be prevented. When muscles are flexible and have better range of motion, athletes are able to strength condition their muscles for a better overall strength.
• Efficient and Effective Training: Yoga can make all training more efficient and effective because of body mechanics, awareness, balance, and stability.
• Increased Endurance: With certain postures that Yoga encourages, your respiratory capacity is increased because of the opening of your chest. The opening of the chest increases respiration and circulation leading to better endurance.
• Optimal Performance: Athletes who participate in endurance oriented sports, sports that require full concentration, and high excursion sports benefit from Yoga as a meditative practice. By being able to coordinate your mind and body, athletes are able to maximize performance while pacing themselves and conserving energy, or by using maximum effort at the appropriate moment to achieve optimal performance.
• Ambidextrous Yoga: Many athletes tend to favor one side of the body, one hand or foot over the other. Yoga promotes strength equality to both sides of the body bringing a needed sense of balance and ambidexterity.
• Resilience to Injury: With the ability to concentrate on controlled and slowed muscles movement when strengthening with Yoga, the integrity of the muscle is more resilience to over stretching, over excursion, and damage. Thus, athletes become more resilient to injury and injuries tend to occur less overall.
• Quick Recovery: Yoga also enables athletes to recover more quickly. With increased circulation, the body’s metabolic composition is able to process byproducts produced from competition or training and allows the body to heal or recover more quickly.
• Breath Awareness: The ability to be aware of inhaling and exhaling breath gives an athlete control over their body and mind. Athletes face high adrenaline and high stress challenging situations constantly. By knowing how to be aware of your breath and to be able to control it, athletes can avoid panicking and developing anxiety that is natural during competition. Controlling and being aware of your breath can be the difference in winning or losing.
• Focus: Most likely the most important benefit of Yoga for an athlete is focus. This mindfulness is the factor that distinguishes a champion from a competitor. With a daily practice, athletes gain an incredible sense of awareness and are able to exceed expectation in training and performance.
Because Yoga is a diverse and complex discipline, individuals can continuous learn and practice Yoga for a lifetime and still not master every aspect of the spirituality and practice. It is known to many as a lifelong journey or quest to understand one’s self.
Those with special needs require special learning techniques for the development of basic skills in a gentle, non-confrontational, and natural way. Yoga provides an avenue for learning that creates an environment of connection and awareness that is conducive to the development of skills needed for everyday life for those with special needs.
Yoga gives children the opportunity to participate in an activity that is not design to stimulate then but allows them to slow down and connect with themselves. This is a technique that can change the life of a child in this non-stop, fast paced world that we live in today.