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What can a yogi learn from the Olympics?

My version of sitting forward bend

Content with my version of the sitting forward bend

I don’t know about you but I have been absolutely hooked on the Olympics.

I say this with some surprise because, I’m not as a rule, a sports fan, however there is something about the Olympics that I just find addictive.

I love the positive atmosphere, I love the fact that so many people compete in so many different disciplines without any conflict, I love that I get to see sports which, I didn’t even know existed and I love watching the competitors and learning from their behaviour and attitude.

In this post I thought I would share with you some of things that have really interested me, looking at it from a yogic perspective, be it physical, mental or emotional.

As many of you know, I am fascinated by all things anatomical, so watching these athletes is a real treat. Although there is some muscle bias, I notice that mostly they are toned and stretched throughout their whole body. They use their entire body to achieve.

When you look at the slow motion re-runs, of the sprinters for example, they are using every part of the body to run, not just the legs. The arms are pumping, the spine is tall with sternum lifted, the abdominal muscles are taut and core stability plays a massive part (watch the gymnasts to really see this in action). They have the perfect balance of strong yet stretched muscles, to prevent injury and help them build more muscle. Watch the athletes breathing too, before the starting gun goes off, long and deep, using the full capacity of the lungs, enhancing calm and focus. I reckon they are certainly using some yoga techniques to keep mind and body in balance!

Listening to the interviews after the events is interesting too. The same themes or philosophies keep coming up time and again and we can use this same wisdom in our yoga practise and indeed our lives:

  1. Don’t give up – so even if you find a posture difficult, keep trying. Yoga is non-competitive so it really doesn’t matter if your neighbour can clasp their hands behind the back in Cow Face (gomukhasana) pose, whilst you need a barge pole to bridge the gap! Be satisfied with where you are right now, it’s all perfect, but don’t give up on the pose, always have…

  2. A goal to work to – you might make touching your hands together in Cow Face your goal. Now think about what you need to do to get there. Ask your tutor which stretches or strengtheners you can do at home, then focus on getting that little bit further each time, and …

  3. Have positive self belief – truly believe that you will get there. Visualise yourself clasping your hands in Cow Face with ease, in total comfort. Believe that you will get there one day, maybe not tomorrow, next week or next year, but one day…just don’t give up!

Writing the last points put me in mind of my own practise.

My “nemesis” posture has always been the sitting forward bend (paschimottanasana). I have practised it nearly every day for probably around 12 years and to be honest I’m not that much further forwards than I was when I started, however it has taught me an enormous amount.

I used to fight and struggle in the pose, trying to force myself into position, this has taught me to just let go and enjoy it as it is. I fully believe that one day I’ll get into the sitting forward bend with ease, so I’ve kept practising and I’ve found out which muscles I need to work on, which in turn has had a very positive effect on my posture, so that’s been a really welcome result in itself. And as yoga is more than just physical exercise I know that I have reaped emotional and mental benefits too.  I have  I’ve got more from this one posture than all the ones I find “easy” put together.

Remember, we call it yoga practise not yoga perfection! Where’s the learning or growth if you do everything with ease?

Have great weeks, practising your cow faces, until next time, when I’m going to be looking at how we can use Dru Yoga to foster positive self belief. Ix

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