Since my stay here in Amsterdam, I had the chance to collaborate with a gym which hosts many elite athletes coming from different types of sport such as Soccer, Running, Field Hockey, Cricket, Swimmers. The main topics of our discussion were, for sure, stress management and training overload. Athletes, definitely, face unique physiological and psychological stressors daily, which may lead to overtraining, burnout, and other physical and mental health issues with the result in causing athletes to give up their sport career with a traumatic memory of it.
Studies has been shown that a recovery yoga protocol with initial incorporation of 20 minute-practice twice weekly and with a third session of 60-minute practice each week for a more integrated mind-body yoga experience has been resulted to promote the most effective recovery in measures such as: performance, physical biomarkers of stress, muscle damage, heart rate variability, sleep quality, mood state, anxiety and depression.
HOW YOGA CAN SUPPORT RECOVERY IN ATHLETES?
The main tools we can draw from are: mindfulness, asana, pranayama or yoga breathing.
Mindfulness: is a form of meditation focused on purposefully attending to the present moment. The goal of mindfulness is not experiential avoidance or the suppression of negative thoughts, emotions, or pain, which can be an unhealthy way to cope with stressors and ultimately lead to psychological inflexibility. The goal of implementing mindfulness practice is to allow the athletes a healthy time to acknowledge stressful or negative notions, let them come up without judgment, and allow them to pass by. Mindfulness practice teaches athletes to give attention to stimuli and allocate appropriate resources to deal with them, leading to improvements in cognitive processing like attention orientation, executive attention, and working memory, all of which can improve performance.
Asana: Adding movement/postures of yoga, or asanas, to this practice of mindfulness is an important aspect for athletes due to their kinesthetic inclination. Athletes may prefer to learn mindfulness through movement and activity rather than through a static relaxation practice.
Pranayama is an important pillar for recovery yoga. The attention towards breath associated with the practice of yoga helps induce the relaxation response.
When are we going to introduce Yoga practice in every Sporting Centre? :)
(based on research studies of University of Montana)