Why Yoga as an Athlete

Quite simply. I was fed up. Fed up of being injured. Fed up of time rehabbing, what I thought were pointless soft tissue injuries that I felt I could control.

No amount of yoga would stop a structural injury, like the one that fundamentally ended my professional career, but with these soft tissues injuries such as muscle strains (tears).

Not being able to do what you love (or get paid to do at the time) is so frustrating. I love playing cricket. I love training. I love staying fit and healthy. And when you are told that you have to stop, you have to rest, you have to rehab. It can make a three or four week lay-off seem like eternity.

So I thought “no more!”. What can I do to prevent this? There has to be something that I can be doing to reduce the rate of injury?

I know stopping all injury is near on impossible in professional sport and only a fortunate few have managed to do go through a long career without sustaining an injury of some sort.

The rise of yoga in sport first came to my attention in the form of Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) when he released a DVD alongside a yoga teacher. I never bought the DVD, I still hadn’t been convinced that yoga wasn’t for hemp wearing hippies that sung kumbaya around a campfire.

It wasn’t until I was on a pre-season training when I had just come out of another injury and I had drawn the line. If Giggs was attributing his long career to yoga then it’s not going to do me any harm is it?

I searched google and the app store for what I thought was going to be the best suited start for me. I simply wanted to something to look after my body. I didn’t want it to be spiritual. I wasn’t keen on that. If I thought there was going to be any sign of an Om then I was out of there, faster than you could say “heart chakra”.

Once I landed on a fairly simple online routine that seemed the closest to what I was looking for, I printed off pages, placed my £5 mat under my arm and went in search of a hidden corner where I was staying, unroll the mat, place the instructions at the front edge and begin to follow them over the next 20 minutes.

The moment the 20 minutes was up I rolled up the mat and scurried away in case anyone saw what I was doing.

As soon as I was ‘in the clear’ I assessed how my body felt post yoga debut. I felt great. The aches the once plagued my body had lessen their continuous droning. My hips felt like nothing they had. My shoulders felt like someone else’s. My body became pure nirvana…..until the next day.

Just like if you haven’t been to the gym before, the next day you realise it. This is no different from yoga. I had to again log back onto Google and double check that I wasn’t just unfortunate. Turns out this is a common thing amount new practitioners. Essentially it is DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) where you’ve push (or pulled) your muscles and entire body into a new realm of physical work. The great thing about yoga, it can help with DOMS! (score!). So the next day I repeat the same steps, put on my fake mustashe and sunglasses as I peered around the corner with my mat and practiced for another 20 minutes.

The same result. My body felt fantastic afterwards. The this was starting to be something that I was seeing a result in, after 20 minutes!!

I began to schedule in 20 minutes each day. I returned home but continued the schedule and believed ‘find 20 minutes each day’ to do some yoga.

20 minutes became 30, 30 became 40, 40 became 60. I would manufacture my days around when I was going to do my yoga. When the season started up and we travelled around the country for games. I brought my yoga mat. Checking in to hotels last to ask if they and a conference room empty in the evening that I could go in and do some ‘work’. I’d rearrange the tables to make enough room for me to splay my arms and legs wide.

Yoga was my recovery tool. I gave me a chance to allow my muscles and entire nervous system to come back to rest after a day of intensity. I could soon tell the difference between the days after when I missed a yoga session and the days when I didn’t.

Soon enough the results spoke for themselves. I was beginning to play more games, train more effectively, and my skill level improved. As for injuries, well, I went from being on a high priority list where I was getting a soft tissue injury every 3 months to not getting one in 18 months!


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5 Days to Hamstring Flexibility Guide.