Before we start, I know what you are thinking. How is yoga going to help me become a better baseball player? Isn’t yoga for girls? I need to get stronger, not more flexible. By the end of this article, you will realize how ridiculous all of those statements are. Yoga will get you stronger and more flexible, which absolutely correlates to on field performance, but more importantly, it trains your mind to stay in the moment and stay calm when everything else gets loud and hectic. This article, if implemented correctly, could change your career. You could vastly change your level of play by training your mind to always be present and stay cool when the pressure rises. If you truly want to be great, you must find every avenue to get better. Power Vinyasa Yoga is one of those avenues and it should not be an ignored component of your training.
The following are the questions and answers from my interview with Mike Marshall, owner of UGotSoul Yoga based in Las Vegas, Nevada. The answers are based on notes taken during our phone interview and are not verbatim from Mike himself. By the end of this article, you will understand how power vinyasa yoga can help you become a better athlete and how to get started if you have never tried it yoga before.
1. When did you start doing yoga and why?
-I started about 15 years ago, before yoga became a popular fitness trend, as a way to add another component to my workouts. At first, I mainly focused on flexibility, but it ended up becoming a way for me to teach and challenge my mind to stay present.
2. What drew you to yoga and kept your passion going for all these years?
-The mental aspect, as well as the feeling after you finish a yoga practice. It’s addicting, for sure.
3. What do you see as the largest benefits of yoga for an athlete?
-Most people would guess flexibility. However, I believe the most important thing yoga teaches us is how to stay in the moment. There is POWER in the PRESENT. Working between the ears is not only difficult, but also very uncomfortable for most people. Sitting still, in silence, and controlling your thoughts is a huge challenge. Most athletes want to work out in the gym, run sprints and do sport specific exercises. Yoga is a difference maker. The ability to stay calm through chaos is what it’s all about. We like to ask, can you function in the dysfunction? We also always ask, how is your EQUANIMITY? This is a word that means mental calmness… being non-reactive. A consistent yoga practice can take your game, as well as your life, to the next level. The challenge is the ability to take what you learn on the yoga mat into real life.
4. Would you say yoga is equally as important as weightlifting for athletes? If so, why?
-Absolutely, they compliment each other. Yoga also aids recovery in a huge way. This allows the athlete to train more often and more efficiently.
5. What do you see as the biggest weakness athletes have when they do yoga for the first time?
-EGO. A lot of athletes are used to being the best on the field. You won’t be the best in the yoga room your first time and that’s okay, but it still bothers some people. Balance, flexibility and concentration are also big areas of weakness that athletes struggle with. Yoga will humble you.
6. Does it matter how someone does yoga, whether in a class, on their own, or following a video?
-I would prefer a class because they can gain energy from the people around them. I work with a lot of college and high school teams and the energy you build together provides the ultimate team-building experience.
7. What are some different types of yoga a young athlete might run into and how do they decide which class would be best for them and their athletic needs?
-I teach “Vinyasa Flow” yoga, which means one breath- one movement. The class should be challenging enough to push you to your edge. The flows, which are different movement progressions, also require you to concentrate and stay focused on the different sequences. I also believe it is important to end with “Savasana”. This is a period of 10-15 minutes where you are laying still and concentrating on being calm and staying present. In order to find the right class, look at the yoga studio schedules and class descriptions and pick the one that meets your needs. Don’t be afraid to try different classes and keep an open mind.
8. How many classes per week should someone do when starting out?
-1-2 sessions a week to start. It is important to incorporate it into your regular training program.
9. What would you say to an athlete who thinks yoga might not be for him and thinks as long as he’s lifting weights, he is fine?
-I would say that everyone in the country lifts. Yoga can be a way to separate yourself from the pack and gain an edge. It will also allow for bigger gains in the weight room with the added flexibility and more efficient recovery.
10.How big of a separator can yoga be for a high school or college athlete?
-It can be the most important separator at your disposal. Most athletes incorporate the same training techniques. If you want to stand out, you need to be different. This can be what takes your game and your mental toughness to the next level.
11. A lot of young high school male athletes see yoga as “stretching” or “for girls”, how would you respond to them?
-(Laughs) I would tell them to come try it. After one class, those pre-conceived notions would be gone. It won’t be what they expect. It will push them in a way that they have never been pushed before. You think you are going to work out your body, but the most important thing you do is work out your mind.
12. If you could give one piece of advice to a high school athlete looking to take his game to the next level, what would it be?
-Focus on every aspect of life you can improve on. That starts with sleep, nutrition, weight lifting, and yoga. I would also challenge athletes to become better people. Yoga helps you SLOW DOWN. Slow down and listen to people. Very few people listen to understand versus listening to respond. This change will greatly improve your relationships. Lastly, I would ask every kid, “how ya livin’? Are you HUMBLE and HUNGRY? All of these things are about challenging your mindset and discipline. Yoga is a great way to train for life, both on and off the field.