Yoga off the Mat for an Athlete
Yoga, for me, has become far more than simply a great form of exercise. As I continue to convert myself from a “max-effort” pitcher to one with a fluid and free-and-easy delivery, yoga has helped tremendously in solidifying some of the key elements in that process. One of the biggest overlaps is the idea of WITNESSING NOT JUDGING.
For anyone who is extremely passionate about their craft and always striving to do more this can be incredibly difficult to grasp. In order to do so, we must redefine perfection. Perfection lies in balance, in harmony, in synchronicity. Often times (especially in sports), mistakes come from a break in our rhythm or timing. Instead of making the outcome dictate whether we were perfect, yoga has helped teach me that the perfection is internal. The goal is to simply notice and become aware of our entire body, not to change anything. From there, we can begin to explore and bring ourselves into balance. My worst practices occurred when my focus was on how far or deep I could stretch rather than the perfection of the posture, breathing, etc. As is often the case, when my attention was brought to the appropriate goals, I was able to stretch far beyond when I was simply trying to go as far as I could. That desire for achievement is the exact same desire that fuels us to go the extra mile. Don’t get me wrong it is a great thing! Especially when it comes from within. But for those who have that innate hunger for greatness and do not need to cultivate it externally, the real challenge is to let YOURSELF be your only competition.
After all, you can’t become the best at something without becoming YOUR best first.
That tight grip to results, outcomes, and things out of our control manifested itself not only in my pitching mechanics but also in life. It took me a while to realize that what held me back from this kind of relaxation was the negative connotation that the word carries (specifically in competition). Again it all comes back to the paradox of balance: Yin and Yang, relaxed aggression/strength. To have both operating within yourself in timely rhythm is to be perfect.