Submmited by: Markus Schneider, Owner of Moksha Yoga Brantford
If you are being called to use any tool, it is usually worth asking yourself, how can this tool be used optimally? As athletes, we rely on specialized tools to perform. These can be anything from gloves, balls, sticks and footwear; each tool providing us a competitive advantage. Those of us that use these tools optimally, excel at the given sport we compete in. Of all the tools an athlete can utilize, no single tool is as pivotal to performance as an athlete’s body. To optimize the body, it is important to understand the correlation between the Body and the Mind. This is why Yoga plays an essential role in developing any athlete’s skill. Let’s take a moment to uncover what Yoga is so that we can more deeply understand how it impacts athletic performance.
Yoga literally means union, and this ‘union’ is referring to a connection that develops between The Mind & The Body. This is much less esoteric than you might first imagine. Take for example the way you use your body to strategically throw a ball, or pass a puck. The more you practice either of these actions, the more connected you feel to consistently accomplishing your goal. You practice so that your mind can get familiar with your body to perform any desired task.
Your body doesn’t perform well when it performs independently of your mind. We see this when we are quite skilled at an activity and your mind is distracted, your body seems not to respond the same way as when you are focused. There is an undeniably strong link to the way that your thoughts and actions relate to one another, and this connection is strengthened and deepened when you practice the union between Mind & Body. This is Yoga: Union - The Mind & The Body come into synergy to perform as one.
In exercising this union, the connection is deeper than the mind simply being connected to the muscles of the arm. For example, a neural connection is made between the individual muscles of the arms, and how these relate to the joint of the shoulder, and how this affects the muscles in your back to change the rotation of your spine … this can go on and on! The more practiced your mind is to the functional anatomy of the body, the more you have the capacity to use the body versatility, and this versatility expands your capabilities because you are more prepared to adapt and optimize usage by working with what you know about yourself and your body.
This connection, or union doesn't just stop there. In the same way that this connection can affect the control you have over your body, in yoga (union) we see this effect extend to the nervous system and the way that the mind relates to your body (especially in the way it relates to your ability to perform). You can see this take place in the way that your confidence impacts your performance— imagine if your neural connection extended to your nervous system… you could calm the nerves while you call on your body to perform. This is one of the powerful effects that breath has on athletes. Breath has the capacity to affect the nervous system and the brain powerfully; this positive effect increases focus, decision making and anatomical control.
By unpacking some of the union that takes place in the way we perform as athletes, we can begin to understand, WHY YOGA? Because it’s all connected! As an elite athlete, your most powerful tool is the body you use to perform, and since the body can’t be separated from the mind, you uncover the value in building deep connection between the Mind & the Body. Union // Yoga. This yoga (union) is imperative to the development of any high level athlete. In suggesting that it be imperative that every athlete practice yoga, I don't mean that every athlete should attend a yoga class. What I mean is that every athlete should fit into their regimen a workout where they are practicing UNION, a connection between their mind and their body—thoughts and actions. A good yoga studio is designed to teach that, but not the only place one practices this unification.
About the Author:
Markus Schneider is an athlete and Yoga Instructor, in Brantford Ontario. His experience and knowledge has supported athletes in diverse disciplines; giving him the opportunity to work with NHL athletes, and Team Canada Olympians, assisting them in deepening their understanding of the Mind/Body connection. Markus continues to share what he understands about the Body and Mind through the work he does as the owner of Moksha Yoga in Brantford, ON. His thirst for knowledge and natural ability to teach, continues to open up opportunities for himself and the athletes he works with. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Moksha Yoga, please visit their website by clicking on this link