I love teaching yoga. I tell people I feel rejuvenated and rested after I teach a class. It’s almost like I’ve been meditating for the entire hour (or more). That’s because I am completely focused and present for an extended period of time. Sports psychologists refer to this as being in the flow. Flow is the state of being completely absorbed in an activity. It’s not a distraction or simple engagement - it’s full engagement. In a state of flow you experience a “deep focus” on the activity and there are no competing thoughts. How can we use yoga as a tool to find the flow on the field?
In yoga, we learn to sync movement with breath. We inhale into a posture and exhale into the next yoga move. This is a very basic concept, however, it’s not completely intuitive. We hold our breath often. Ironically enough, I remind people to breathe in yoga class. Holding breath happens when a person is trying a pose that they find difficult, when a pose is beyond their range of motion, or perhaps when outside thoughts make their way onto the yoga mat. If you’re not breathing, you will not be able to find the flow. Holding breath in baseball happens for a variety of reasons, perhaps anticipating a pitch or play, or letting the mind wander to a past or future event.
Just showing up to yoga is not going to get you to that flow state. There needs to be a moment to settle in to your space and the mental intention to to focus on your body and breath (note: this is different from pre-game stretching on the field). If you are listening to the yoga instructor, feeling the pose in your body, and paying attention to your breathing patterns, you won’t have the capacity to bring in competing thoughts. This is not easy.
Many baseball teams use yoga occasionally at best. While players will most likely feel physically better after a one-off yoga class, the benefits should not end there. Some teams use yoga during their homestand and that is a great offering for their players. I would love to see yoga used more frequently for the physical AND mental benefits of the athletes. I do not think one yoga session twice a month will provide the repetition needed to find the flow state.
My goal is to travel with a team and work with their players for the entire season. Baseball players tend to gravitate toward consistent routine, and once-in-a-while modalities will not be effective.
If your team is interested in full season yoga scheduling, email me for more information.