Ma Lin of China warming up

Could Yoga Sports Science be the missing link to achieve that extra 1% edge?

Table tennis is a sport requiring an intense level of physical and mental endurance, placing immense demands on a player. Every athlete recognises these demands and will have spent a significant amount of time with their coach identifying ways in which to enhance their performance.

Yoga is fast becoming an accepted beneficial add-on to traditional training for athletes looking to achieve that extra 1% edge.

Yoga Sports Science suffers from its label ’Yoga’, the image of being dressed in lycra, having to touch your toes and bend your body into the shape of a pretzel. This does nothing to promote its real image and considerable benefits. Even if you never do touch your toes Sports Specific Yoga will improve your performance and make you a better athlete or performer, no matter what your sport or discipline.

Yoga is an ancient science that studies the nature of the body and utilises the body’s natural ability to perform to its highest potential.
Yoga Sport Science combines this ancient science with modern developments in sports science, enabling an athlete to integrate training techniques to produce a significantly superior training programme to achieve that extra 1% edge.

I am a Yoga Sport Coach working within Yoga Sports Science, 1 of only 10 fully qualified, recognised and registered in the U.K. and across the world.

As a Yoga Sports Coach I work alongside coaches and athletes and have seen first hand the considerable benefits and improvements that an intervention of sport specific yoga techniques can produce in an athlete’s performance.I have been actively researching the benefits of yoga within sport and performance and have completed a successful research paper introducing performance breathing techniques to enhance performance in elite table tennis players. Breathing is one aspect of training that is often overlooked by both athlete and coach.

Over the course of the intervention the breathing techniques were found to be very beneficial to the athletes performance and training, by not only working into and utilising correct breathing postural muscles, the primary and secondary breathing muscles, but were quickly picked up by the athletes as ‘tools’ to utilise during pre and
post performance, matches and between points to help with relaxation, nerves, focus and continued concentration.

Performance breathing techniques increase VO2 maximum capacity, breathing efficiency and peak flow of the breath, train the neural pathways of the brain to work the Serratus Anterior muscles, increases lung expansion and diaphragmatic breathing into the lower lobes of the lungs working into the primary and secondary breathing muscles and improve and increase heart and lung organ strength.

Reaction time, added balance, coordination, stamina, focus, concentration and stress reduction can also be improved through breath control and because of the increased oxygenation to the muscles, lactic acid and waste products can be removed quicker, which can prevent injury and soreness after an accumulation strength session.
They can also be utilised as a relaxation and focusing tool away from training. These are just a few of the benefits of one single aspect of sport specific yoga techniques.

Ma Long of China warming up

The benefits of sport specific yoga when used consistently are:
• Development and enhancement of concentration and focus
• Enhanced physical performance, stamina, agility, fitness and endurance
• Improved strength and conditioning
• Improved functional stability and mobility and balance
• Aid injury prevention and recovery from injury
• Improve the quality and efficiency of the breath through performance breathing techniques.
• Effective management of tension and control stress levels
• Improved explosive power and explosive breathing
• Improved proprioception, spatial awareness and body awareness
• Greater motor control and develop an improved movement accuracy
• Increases longevity within chosen field
• Improved reaction times and biomechanical efficiency
• Corrections to muscle imbalances and joint instability, perpetuated through repetitive and unbalanced sports
• Reduced recovery times – restorative posture work benefits the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems

A sports specific yoga programme is designed with an understanding of the athlete’s biomechanics and the biomechanical demands of each specific sport, so each programme is uniquely and realistically designed to fit in with a possibly already intense schedule. Often an intervention will last between 5 to 30 minutes, enabling the athlete to continue to attain training objectives.

‘A huge thank you to: Chris Newton – West Midlands Regional Development Manager, English Table Tennis Association, Desmond Douglas – Elite Table Tennis Coach and the participants of the research study, for their input, assistance, perseverance and support throughout.’

By Fiona Adamson
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