by Jeff Greenwald, M.A., MFT; sports psychologist
Reprinted with permission from Fearless Tennis
There are many doorways that can help you play better and become more emotionally and physically flexible; you will then find your game and results improve dramatically. My favorite suggestion is to try yoga.
The truth is, before I actually tried yoga, I had been thinking about it for a couple of years. Deep down, I knew that slowing down like this for over an hour would be incredibly challenging. But five years ago, I decided to test my patience and walked into a local gym for a class. In the first class, I felt distracted, impatient, and frustrated that I couldn’t do the poses properly.
Although I felt like bolting out of the class multiple times, I stuck it out and finished the class. I was proud of myself. And I went back the next week. I got a little more comfortable with the movements the following week and was determined to finish the class, which I did. After about four weeks, I was hooked.
What was the result? I became more patient. I improved my ability to stay focused. I felt mentally calmer for at least two days afterward. On the court, I know it paid off. My breathing patterns improved, and I could access this calmer state more easily than before.
The research is relatively new on yoga, but it is starting to show dramatic results in lowering blood pressure, calming the autonomic nervous system, and positively impacting your brain’s neurochemistry.
There is probably no better way to practice your emotional, mental, and physical flexibility than yoga. It will test your will and help you become more aware of how active your mind is. Learning to calm your mind and overcome passing frustration in yoga will help you manage the difficult moments on the court with more grace.
Of course, taking the step into the yoga room for the first time may be your biggest challenge. But once you do, you may find an activity that can profoundly impact your tennis game and your life.