Yoga is increasingly coming into sport and professional football, in particular over the last 10 years and more and more clubs and individual players are taking up the ancient practice to improve their sporting ability, move more freely with increased flexibility, strength and stamina. In addition, yoga can help to prevent injuries, as well as recover more quickly and is a great complimentary tool for mental, as well as physical health.
Top footballers such as Ryan Giggs and David Beckham have sworn by the benefits of yoga and how it helped them in the professional game to increase longevity in the career. During the World Cup 2018, in which Gareth Southgate led England into the semi-finals in Russia, the England team benefited from practising yoga stretches, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques at camp as part of their recovery between games to unwind and relax, and find calm to help to cope with the pressures that come with playing at such a high level in public view.
Recently there was the Royal Team Talk where Prince William met with Gareth Southgate, Peter Crouch and other top players, as well as fans to open up and talk about their mental health issues. Since football can be a competitive and tough environment to be in, due to both internal and external pressures and expectations, there’s a real need for something to counterbalance this. The yoga room is a nurturing space, where thoughts, feelings and emotions can be contained and processed, without fear of judgment. Footballers can take time out on the mat to stretch, breathe and develop good self-esteem and confidence, so they feel supported no matter what the result is on game day.
Liverpool striker Mo Salah caught the public’s attention this April when he adopted a yoga pose after a win against Chelsea. In an interview on BBC Radio Merseyside, I discussed his celebration tree pose and the key benefits of yoga for professional footballers ahead of the Champions League Final in Madrid last month, in which Liverpool brought home the trophy for the 6th time in their win against Tottenham. Listen to the interview here:
And football is not only a man’s game. Women’s Football is gaining more recognition and interest now than ever before, with record-breaking numbers viewing the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer which took place in France. All eyes were on the calm and composed Lionesses, whose team included Liverpool-born Toni Duggan and Nikita Paris from Toxteth playing in the semi-final on Tuesday against USA. They have certainly inspired a nation and displayed great form and talent, showing that women can be strong, fiery and equal to men. Phil Neville, their coach was clearly proud and said they had left their ‘hearts and souls on the pitch’. The England team used yoga as a way to breathe and relax between games. An excellent way to take time out, and stay focused too.
In seeing and then experiencing for themselves the benefits of yoga, more football players of all levels are committing to a regular practice. I spoke with a couple of my students here in Liverpool who attend weekly classes and find yoga helpful for reasons including warming up properly, injury prevention, relaxation and improved sleep.
“I have been coming to the Tuesday evening class at the Innovation Park for around 6 or so months now, and find it very beneficial as a footballer; all the stretching, in particular anything for the adductors, and strengthening poses. Yoga has helped me a lot with preventing any injuries.” Dave Abram
And Dave, from Monday’s city centre Gentle Yoga class describes how he could have benefited from yoga during his football years.
“I have been playing football since I was a young lad, around 10 years old. I used to play at Vernon Sangster and Sunday League in Anfield. I love football, and I wish I had done yoga then as there wasn’t a match when I didn’t carry an injury in my ankle, back etc. Yoga helps to strengthen your body, relieve aches and pains, with breathing as I suffer from asthma and better sleep.” Dave Morgan, Everton FC Supporter
There’s no doubt that yoga can help footballers, both on and off the pitch to perform well, relax and develop a positive mindset, as well as keep injuries and anxieties at bay. The two together are definitely a winning team! Whether it’s playing socially or professionally and everything in between, yoga is starting to get the credit it deserves in the football world as it is adaptable in nature, backed by science and complimentary to training.
Do you play football, and looking to improve your sporting ability? Interested in increasing flexibility or strength or do you have an injury? Or perhaps it’s the mental side of the game you’d like some help with. Check out the Sports Yoga page here or get in touch via the Contact page. I look forward to helping you get your head-er in the game!