You might have seen pictures on the internet of top tennis players practicing yoga, such as Novak Djokovic in downward facing dog or cobra, Andy Murray in an extended side angle and Maria Sharapova in warrior II. Or pictures of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sitting on court meditating between change of sides. Several top tennis players go on the yoga mat to keep their bodies healthy, practicing yoga postures that are directly related to enhancing or counter-balancing key actions on court. Many of them also meditate to work on controlling their mind.
Practicing yoga on the mat can be seen as movement meditation. In addition to keeping the body healthy, the various postures help to still the mind, increase concentration and calm the breath. You can be in a yoga posture with both feet on the ground and still loose your balance if you are not focusing on the posture. Concentration will come from knowing where you are, in the present moment, and allowing the breath to support the posture.
In Sanskrit, the word for concentration is dharana, and it is one of the eight components of yoga practice (from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali). Practicing dharana helps to be in the moment and quiet the mind. Have you noticed how TV tennis commentators talk about a player being in the moment, that it is about the “here and now”? As Martina Navratilova once said while commentating, “tennis is the ultimate game of staying in the moment”.
I think we can all learn from top tennis players and how they work on their concentration – there is no need to be a professional athlete to see that it could be helpful to focus on one thing at the time! By practicing yoga, you are training your mind to stay clear, calmer and more focused.