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Yoga For Men

oga: Eastern Practice in Western Sports

by C.J. Ong, Jr.

Over the past few years the practice of Yoga in many variations has come to the west. Often considered by the uninformed to be a religious practice, Yoga is recognized as one of the six philosophical systems to arise out of India, founded by the Indian sage Patanjali in approximately 300 B.C. Yoga yields the greatest benefits when approached as a way of life, offering one a chance to experience an integrated system of education for the body, mind and inner spirit. For the athlete Yoga can provide a way to synthesize the processes of a well-rounded fitness program in several ways. They can include:

  • Improved use of Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
    The neurological location for the skills needed to execute movement in any or all of the three planes of movement lies within the motor cortex of the brain, with each hemisphere dominant or controlling bodily movements on the contra-lateral side. An asana in Yoga recruiting Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence would be Ardha Matsyendrasana (the spinal twist), an asana requiring movement in all three planes of movement. Developing the skills to execute an asana correctly can transfer to improved sports performance. When mastered the 12 positions contained within Surya Namaskar (the sun salutations) integrate each hemisphere of the brain and provide one with a total stretching routine.
  • Calming of the Sympathetic Nervous System
    Many athletes allow their workouts to become back to back races and challenges, either with themselves or others. These “workouts” create constant state of stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system with a negative effect on the body. In an effort to protect itself the body releases cortisol, a catabolic hormone consuming lean tissue. Engaging in regular Yoga practice will allow the body to recover faster, improve sleep (quality sleep is when the production of the body’s natural growth hormones is at its’ highest levels) and lead to lower body fat levels when incorporated into a sound training schedule.
  • Optimal Performance Through Improved Posture
    For the body’s ten levels of cellular organization to work together in an optimal manner the correct alignment of the body segments is crucial. Postural faults often lead to compensation injuries and the resulting sub-par athletic performances. Learning the asana Tadasana (mountain) can bring one to an awareness of correct posture. Improved posture allows the nerve plexuses/chakras to enter into correct alignment with each other, in turn allowing the river of energy contained within the body to flow easily.

In the beginning the practice of Yoga may seem confusing, even perhaps daunting and improvement may seem miniscule. Attending a class with those who have attained a certain level of mastery might make one feel out of place at first. It is at these times one should keep in mind the words of Bruce Lee, one of the first athletes to integrate Eastern and Western practices into athletics: “Success lies in the process rather than the completion”.

© C.J. Ong, Jr. / 2011


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