Imagine the frustration that minutes into playing a normal sport or practicing a martial art technique that you have already sprained your ankle, wrist or any particular muscle. The futile out-of-breath experience after running 200m into your 5K jog routine. It is getting common in modern urban societies where most works have been automated, saving us time and effort looking at the surface, our every body movements in daily life are becoming so easily injured with slight off-balance away from the proper postures.
These are just a few scenarios which are considered minor issues of sports injuries when compared to the more serious ethical issues in sports world such as unethical business practices of poaching customers, selling fake sport goods brand, to the widespread sexual harassment and assault allegations to the coaches of national teams in various countries triggered by the #MeToo movement.
Well, life is not easy anyway but we see multitudes of problems in just doing sports alone. This is where the practice of yoga seems to make a meaningful entrance into helping to address all these area.
In Ashtanga yoga of Patanjali or the eight-limbs of yoga, it covers 8 aspects of our practice.
1st and 2nd limbs – Yamas (ethical guidelines) and Niyamas (observances)
The first and second limbs set forth in the ethical precepts are moral imperatives or rules for us to live a right and proper lifestyle. The laying down of the fundamental proper values and attitudes are more important even before beginning the training of the body and before obtaining any sporting skills or techniques. Imagine that a talented athlete who lacks of moral conduct will be condemned, even if he wins a medal. Hence proper moral standard has to be cultivated before the start of practice of our physical body. This is also essential for the later stage of practice that a purify mind will have less distractions and hindrances from improving further when we are operating at the advance level.
3rd and 4th limbs – Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises)
Asanas and pranayama enable us to build strength, increase flexibility and improve stamina at the same time. There will be also less injury during our training as the body is enhanced and calibrated with all rounded strength and flexibility. With the outset of a strong physical foundation, our body will be ready to dive deeper into any field of sports in the next stage.
We can visualise the manifestation of this combinations of capabilities in a great example where an ice figure skater who is able to maintain the body balance while gliding gracefully across the ice ring, having the flexibility to perform difficult stunts in a dynamic moving condition and lastly having the stamina to complete the whole sequences till the end.
5th and 6th limbs – Pratyahara (bringing the senses inward) and Dharana (concentration)
Often in competitive sports, an athletes requires elevated concentration and focus to be able to achieve and deliver the best performance during a match. Being able to shut out from the external environments such as the noisy audiences and emotional distractions or pressure from the opponent as well as the player ownself will be crucial to carry through the competition. When all sides fair equally in speed, power and skills, which is especially common when competing at the professional level, by elevating our sharp attention to focus on one point will determines the winner of the day.
7th and 8th limbs – Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (integrating one’s conciousness with the universe)
By understanding that we are oneness with all living beings through meditation and by being at the present moment, we are able transcend our judgemental ego, dislikes, worry and fear. Winning the matches are secondary to being just having the honour to express our potential to the fullest and enjoying the process of interaction of skills with another individual (match opponent) or individuals (audience). To a higher level, sports should have the capacity to unite people together to celebrate human excellence while eliminating political, national and cultural boundaries.
In India, yoga education is introduced to all government schools. This is a good start for children to begin their lifelong journey in purifying their mind at the same time building a strong physical body. It would be encouraging to see more people, either for sports or just leisure purpose, around the world to start to practice yoga in the coming future.