21 Jun 2020

Packed stadiums! You hear caio! cho! come on! vamos! huge applause! you feel sweaty palms! You take a deep breath and as you touch the racket, all the strategies do a somersault but your mind cringes for that one life changing solution; your eyes close for that one biggest point which will change history forever! 11-10!

“You cannot control what goes outside but you can control what goes inside ” a quote which makes us wonder; how ? The answer is Yoga; Sunday 21st June is International Yoga Day!

by Mamata Prabhu

The secret Indian recipe of mind control, followed extensively worldwide, plays a most vital role in the development and performance of the rising Indian brigade.

Yoga is thousands of years old and is also known as an intellectual discipline. Yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety, cultivate self-confidence and self-belief. All of these elements are pivotal to sporting excellence and peak performance. Yoga has played a key role in cultivating mind control and concentration which helps an athlete perform at their peak level.

The four letter pint sized word “Yoga” might just soak the whole universe in itself; that’s the power of yoga !!!

Asnas and Prananyama

Many of the top level athletes in India practise yoga on a regular basis; most notably both Harmeet Desai and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, leading members of the Indian national team, follow the art.

Harmeet Desai benefitting from the practice of Yoga (Photo: courtesy of by Mamata Prabhu)


The elementary journey of yoga, which is generally practised by many top perfoming athletes consists of Asnas (physical posture and dealing with body) and Prananyama (dealing with breath , conscious control of energy and controlled breathing techniques).

“I have practised Yoga since 2019.  I saw myself growing strongly and breaking the mental barriers. I won major titles like the Commonwealth Championships, National Championships, Indonesian Open and four gold at the South Asian Games. Yoga practice has helped me to regroup my thoughts very quickly and helped me be calm in many situations.” Harmeet Desai

Issues faced by players

Afflictions of the mind such as experiencing competitive anxiety, dealing and coping with stress, handling pressure and nerves, staying in the present, remaining focused, coping with negative thoughts, the inner critic are common issues faced by all players .

Similarly, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran has no doubt that Yoga is most beneficial and is now very much part of his preparation.

“ I have fallen in love with yoga; this practice has helped me become more self aware and peaceful. During lockdown it has given me the mental strength to keep going and I look forward very positively. I am aslo seeing improvement in flexibility and my body seems at ease. Yogic breathing techniques really makes you stay in present and that’s what is required in matches. If I am able to acquire this quality of staying in present, then it could make a very big difference to my game. ” Sathiyan Gnanasekaran

Dimitrij Ovtcharov

After the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and before the 2016 Men’s World Cup, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who was always in spotlight, practised Yoga to relieve the pressure of competition .

“As a world class player, I experience many stressful days. It’s been two years since I have been practising yoga and meditation. Yoga helps to clear my mind and recharge my battery faster. Meditation helps me get some time for myself; it’s just me and my body. I like it a lot.” Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Dimitrij Ovtcharov found Yoga beneficial (Photo: Archive)


Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s Sarah de Nutte, during the recent lockdown became a convert to Yoga and is clear of the benefits.

“I started doing Yoga, which I really enjoy and I will keep on doing Yoga after going back to my ‘normal’ life.” Sarah de Nutte

Promoting well being

Much can be developed to face such tough situations through the regular practice of yoga. Scientific studies have shown that yoga has been a boon to reduce anxiety and stress whilst promoting a sense of well-being bringing contentment to the individual.

It is an holistic practice that encourages body and mind connection through breath. The skills learnt on the yoga mat are skills for life and not just for sport. It is a grounding practice that infiltrates every part of your life with the ultimate goal to strip back all that is negative to help achieve contentment and happiness.

Deep breath

Take a deep breath! Calm your soul! Relax your wrist …..and the scene goes blank …no sound …focus on ball …strength in your nerves! Confidence in your heart….no past …no future ….just the present……and there you go!

Boom……. 12-10!

Harmeet Desai, inner thoughts (Photo: courtesy of Mamata Prabhu)
General News Sathiyan Gnanasekaran Harmeet Desai