Imagine walking into a yoga class in Wellington and seeing the All Blacks squad on yoga mats in downward facing dog. Not the usual reason you would see the All Blacks in Wellington, but funnily enough it’s not out of the question. Yoga and the benefits are proving themselves to the western world more and more as many top athletes of the globe accredit yoga disciplines as the secret tool to their sporting finesse and mental stability.
Ma’a Nonu, the All Black centre legend who started out his rugby career in Wellington, says he does yoga for his health and “loves it”. “I always get tested mentally in terms of my performance, and that’s what drives me. I like to prove people wrong and always want to stay on the track. I do a bit of yoga – that’s what helps. I’ve been doing it for five years, and really get into it.”
William Truebridge, the current multiple time world champion of underwater freediving and the first human to descend to 102 metres in one breath, incorporates strict yoga breathing exercises into his training regime. Pranayama breathing, bhanda tongue locks and empty-lung breath holds help him to increase the amount of oxygen the body can store. “If you can push past that first panic, it’s then all about your physiological ability to survive,” Trubridge says. “It takes a lot of training. If you can relax despite the contractions, you can remain calm and focused.”
Beyond New Zealand shores, top NBA players LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Durant are also advocates of yoga practice for their performance and well being, as well as the US Women’s Soccer team and Tennis gold medalist and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
So why yoga? Sage Rountree, a well known yoga teacher with a decade of experience in teaching yoga to athletes as well as the author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga believes that yoga is crucial for any athlete wanting to maintain a long and healthy sports career. “Yoga builds strength, flexibility, and focus—both physically and mentally. It also fosters balance, not just of the body in space but in the spaces within the body: the front and the back, the left and the right, the top and the bottom. Better yet, yoga encourages athletes, especially team-sports athletes who have a rigorously scheduled practice calendar, to find balance between work and rest. It gives athletes time and space to settle in to simply being, and thus jumpstarts recovery.”
Think you’ve got what it takes to join the world’s top athletes in the discipline that carries them to the top of their game? Join us on the yoga mat at Vital Yoga. There’s something for everyone and you don’t have to be a top athlete to experience the incredible benefits of yoga.