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May 2022 - Yoga and Sports

Dear Yoga Friends,

I came to yoga out of curiosity, hoping to find a practice to balance out and support athletic activity. As a swimmer in high school, I was familiar with the importance of stretching, but never took it very seriously. In my teens I developed a love of mountain sports that continues to this day. But yoga eventually became the dominant practice in my life. Although yoga offers invaluable techniques to improve strength, flexibility, and balance, the promises of holistic health, healing, and spiritual growth move the practice way beyond basic exercise.

This said, there are times when things come full circle. A few months ago I heard an interview with the 1992 Olympics gold-medal-winning figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. When asked how she was able to perform such amazing feats under intense pressure, she said that her coach helped her with three simple points: (1) keep breathing; (2) focus on the one next thing you need to do, as opposed to a string of things; and (3) when the familiar music starts, it calms you. Imagine this—yoga in a different context. The breath, staying in the moment, and allowing sound to help bring you into the present moment, to a state of focus.

Watching an NBA basketball game recently made me think of the extraordinary discipline, both physical and mental, required to rise to such peak performance. If this is not a mind/body discipline, what is? Also, in team sports, one must transcend ego (at least in the moment), to do what's best for the team, not yourself. The difference with yoga is that we are focused more inward, not so much on what is going on around us, we are (hopefully) not under competitive or time pressure, and we seek an ineffable inner goal that cannot be measured on a scoreboard or awarded by external judges.

I recently became aware of Abhay Javakhedkar, an Iyengar yoga teacher in India who studied directly with the Iyengars since childhood. He specializes in working with athletes, offering guidance to improve performance and recover from injuries. Abhay will teach a series of classes hosted by IYISF over the summer (links below). We are so fortunate to be on the path of Iyengar yoga, which offers such a big tent for exploring the range of mind-body practice!




* Chad's weekly classes: 12:15-1:15pm Tuesdays (mixed level, online) & noon-1:30pm Thursdays (intermediate, hybrid in-person/online) at IYISF (sign up under Classes & Series menu)

* Upcoming Yoga for Sports livestream series with Abhay Javakhedkar, 7-9am on 3 Sundays at IYISF (scroll down to Jun/Jul/Aug events)

Chad Balch