Are you training for a marathon? Gearing up for a cycling sportive? No doubt you’ll be racking up the miles and counting the calories as part of a rigorous training schedule to prepare you for an epic feat of athletic endurance.
I’m guessing that yoga sessions probably don’t feature within this schedule. After all, how could such a slow and gentle pursuit possibly help you to run faster, cycle further or get stronger? Well, in a whole multitude of ways actually! Yoga and sport are not mutually exclusive, any more than your mind and your body are. More and more sportspeople are realising that yoga can enhance not just their sporting performance, but also their overall quality of life.
Keen to delve deeper into this fascinating subject, I recently had a chat with Ewan Hewertson, director of Inverurie-based Tribalcore, which specialises in group training, personal training and online coaching. Ewan combines sports and military science to create bespoke training programmes, with a strong focus on the importance of balance, co-ordination, flexibility and core-strength, not to mention a calm, stress-free state of mind. So, it’s no surprise that he is passionate about the value of incorporating yoga into training plans. I wanted to find out more about how yoga has helped both him and his clients.
What is your career background?
I served with the Royal Marine Commandos 11 years during which time I was challenged mentally and physically, in all manner of situations and environments. After leaving in 2002, I went on to study personal training and sports therapy. Since then I have been fortunate enough to work with a whole range of clients, from a 13-year old boy who was recovering from a stroke, to a Formula 3 racing car driver. I also returned to the Marines for a time, where one of my roles involved training new recruits and maintaining fitness for the trained ranks.
Tell us a bit about the role you play with sportspeople and their training plans?
Whether my clients are keen sportspeople or not, I use the three pillars of mind, nutrition and body to evaluate and improve their current situation. Looking at the mind first I focus on motivation, reducing stress and improving quality of sleep. I also give advice on nutrition, because after all, ‘We are what we eat!’ With the body I start out by improving posture, mitigating any injuries and finally working on improving performance to help them achieve their goals. I also strive to make clients understand why they want to achieve those goals, as this is vital for long-term success.
I’ve heard recently that sports trainers are encouraging people to take up yoga as part of their training for the likes of a marathon. What are your thoughts on that?
Absolutely! It is essential for everyone participating in sport to have good balance and co-ordination, and to ensure that core areas such as the joints, mid-section and upper body are strong and have a wide range of motion.
What benefits does yoga provide when training for an endurance or competitive event?
The benefits are endless! Yoga improves flexibility and the condition of the muscles, enhances balance and proprioception and increases endurance in the muscles and respiratory system. It also prevents injury and aids quicker recovery by improving the blood flow. Mentally it can reduce stress and enable you to gain clarity and focus in your chosen activity. All of this leads to better performance and more power in sport and in life.
Is this a new thing in the wider sporting arena?
I wouldn’t say so. I believe that most good coaches and trainers have long been encouraging their clients to take up yoga to complement their own training plan. Where I have seen a change is in the focus of the yoga: previously we would focus more on moving through a range of movements, but I now think that when we hold a position for longer it requires a deeper level of control, focus and strength, which can only be of benefit.
Can you give me an example of how yoga has helped one of your clients?
One of my clients was a racing car driver in Formula 3 and Le Mans. He was a tall guy, but spent hours in a tiny cockpit, which forced him to contort his body for long periods of time while driving.
This resulted in significant bruising in his spine, which was having a detrimental impact on his driving, and on his life. I focused our training efforts on stretching and lengthening his muscles to realign his posture. It was a game-changer, and significantly improved not only his performance, but also the quality of his life. After some time, he gained two inches in height and the spinal bruising disappeared.
So how can yoga help you to unlock your full potential?
Yoga helps you to better understand your body. A problem that many sportspeople encounter is that the strength they have worked so hard to achieve can lead to areas of extreme tightness, restricting their range of movement and increasing their risk of injury.
Through yoga you can begin to understand where you’re strong or weak, tight or flexible, which allows you to begin correcting those problems. By focusing on areas that are tight, the practice of yoga can improve mobility and flexibility, and restore some balance to the body.
In addition to all of these benefits, yoga can also improve recovery, increase longevity in your chosen sport, and make it possible to hold certain positions for longer and with better stability.
Downtime and recovery are vital elements of any training schedule. With yoga we are making time to relax and clearing our minds of stress and negativity. In turn, when we feel calm and in control, we can focus more clearly on our goals, over-ride fearful and doubtful thoughts and achieve more than we ever thought possible.
Find your edge – Yoga for Sport
If you would like to experience first-hand how yoga can help you find your sporting edge, join myself and Karen Rennie of MiYoga, at our session on yoga for sport on Saturday 22nd September at Kinellar Community Hall, Blackburn, from 9.30 – 12pm.
The session will include dynamic poses to warm up your muscles and loosen your joints, passive holds to relax and stretch tight muscles, and resting poses along with breathing and meditation to encourage mental relaxation, and to strengthen your resolve in achieving your goal. Light, healthy refreshments will be available during a short break.
Beginners to yoga are most welcome. Just come along with an open mind, do your best and find what feels good for you.