Yoga for Athletes : From the Mat to the Court

Yoga for Athletes

Taking Your Practice from the Mat to the Court


 

Last Thursday I was gifted the opportunity to meet with about 50 high school basketball players through West Coast Elite San Diego . WCE is directed by one of the top basketball coaches in the country, Sterling Jones. Sterling trained my son Tommy from the time he was in middle school, and continues to work with him when he is home on break from Harvard. 

Tommy McCarthy of Harvard VS. University of Kansas

I’ve seen through my children, as well as through my own experience, the kind of camaraderie that forms through the challenges of training. Trust and intimacy evolve naturally as teammates (and coaches) witness one another breaking through mental and physical barriers. You gain a deep respect, and often adoration, for those you see grow, and for those who see you grow through the process.

 

Paired with camaraderie, however, is often a big dose of competition, extreme rigor and pressure to excel, leaving many athletes overly sore, burnt out, or full of anxiety (which all translate into an impaired game). This is why I’ve found it so important for athletes to supplement their intense training with practices that offer balance, and an opportunity to work – alone or as a team – in a less goal oriented, high pressure way.

Yoga, I’ve found, is the perfect supplement.

So, let’s go back to Thursday when I met with dozens of young, high energy, tight, sore, and rigorous athletes… I came out to help these boys develop greater muscular balance in the body and learn how to discipline their mind through focus and concentration. 

They were all attentive, respectful, and along for the ride. There was also an element of hilarity as they were moaning and groaning with every stretch… But, this just confirmed it even more! Athletes, who are so used to go-go-going strong all the time, need the practice of slowing down and listening.

The result of a balanced approach to training is agility, calmness during stressful situations, ability to move and react quickly, intuitive efficiency, and stronger teamwork!

 

The boys were extremely receptive to the lessons, and I can’t wait to see how they apply what they learned in their game.

 

If you are a yoga teacher working with athletes, or an athlete doing your own practice, take these thoughts into consideration:

1. Use Your Breath First : Athletes are often used to moving from their “outer” body first, without much consideration for the feeling or deep rooted cause of the action. In yoga, the movement comes as a result of the breath, so each posture is formed from the inside-out. With long, deep, full breaths you can move deeper into a stretch in a safe way. In most sports the breath speeds up, but in yoga the breath stays slow, even and rhythmic.

2. Find Your Edge : In yoga, “the edge” is the place where you’re working at the top of your body’s ability on any given day. If you worked any less, you’d be slacking off; any more, and you’d be risking injury. Only you know where your edge is, so take the time to listen carefully to what your body is saying from pose to pose. Practicing “the edge” helps athletes struggling to balance ambition in their lives, and can be a potent remedy to the perfectionist mentality.

3. Change The Mental State : Many athletes deal with judgment, competitiveness and criticism on a regular basis. This can facilitate and contribute to stress. The yoga practice helps to counter this type of training, as it is deeply personal and should be self enhancing. Yoga is a time to let go of being a goal-oriented competitor and just be present in the process of where you are today.

4. Use Everything, Overuse Nothing : Yoga teaches a balance between Strength and Surrender- both mentally and physically. In the body, for example, notice how you can contract an opposing muscle from the one being stretched, by pulling it closer to the bone. i.e.: contract and lift the kneecap and quadriceps toward the top of the thigh and inward toward the femur to open the hamstrings.

5. Don’t Envy Flexibility / Show Compassion : Flexibility comes to people in varying rates. Some athletes experience a steep learning curve in increasing flexibility. A focused practice of utilizing the breath while stretching muscles may be brand new. These athletes need to be reassured that it takes time and consistent effort to get results. Be careful not to compare flexibility. For many it takes years to achieve a supple, flexible body. It is not easy to be flexible if you train. Training makes you tight! You have to work hard to get tight, so don’t be embarrassed by it.

 

Whatever you play and however you train, I hope you are able to apply these yogic lessons to your practice. There is value in intense training, and value in slowing down. Ultimately, work for balance in your life so that you can play at your highest potential.

 

Happy practicing!

Stacy

 

Demystifying Astrology

Demystifying Astrology

How knowing my star sign taught me to be my Highest Self


I’ve never been much of the “woo-woo” sort. I didn’t get into yoga because I wanted everlasting peace. I was an athlete, a bit of a gym rat, and a physical go-getter. Yoga came to me by accident, and just so happened to completely change my life.

When I stepped foot into my first yoga class, I had no idea what Sanskrit was- or why it was important to chant it at the beginning of every practice. I had no idea what bandhas were, and no idea why everyone was so “peaced-out” after class. I just knew it made me feel good. So I kept on going to class, immersing myself in the experience of each asana, and listening carefully to what my instructors were saying.

At first, the depths of yoga entered my being subconsciously. And it wasn’t until my beloved teacher Dom asked me to sub his class that I had even considered I could teach it.

Teaching my first yoga class was an enlightening experience; in that moment, I felt like I knew why I was created.

Since that day, over 30 years ago, yoga has opened me up to countless realities I had never before considered as real.  It taught me about the power of my thoughts, the wisdom of my true nature, and the infinite possibilities that show themselves when we trust in the mysterious unfolding of life.

Yoga introduced me to a number of other ancient practices which were all rooted in the same understanding that all of life is connected. One of these practices, which came much later in my life, was Astrology.

Now you may be thinking, “Ok, I get Yoga- it’s a physical practice! But… Astrology?”

At first, I thought that too. But when I met Leslie McGuirk of Lucky Stars Astrology at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico, I had the same kind of life changing moment as when I taught my first yoga class.

The way she could describe the meaning of the stars was so new to me. Before I had known astrology only from the single sentence fate-tellers in the daily newspaper— and I wasn’t so convinced. What first changed my mind was hearing Leslie akin astrology to owner’s manual: “Astrology is one of the most useful tools for increasing self awareness and inner peace. Think of it like the owner’s manual in your car’s glove compartment; you have the key to your vehicle and you are the driver.”

“Astrology is one of the most useful tools for increasing self awareness and inner peace. Think of it like the owner’s manual in your car’s glove compartment; you have the key to your vehicle and you are the driver.”

I was intrigued. I was so curious to know what could the stars teach me about myself that I don’t already know. So, I decided to dive in deeper, and booked a private reading with Leslie. What she revealed to me wasn’t anything incredibly new. But it was incredibly transformational… I’ll explain.

What I found out was that I am a double Virgo! Meaning not just my Sun sign is Virgo (my primary characteristics), but my Moon sign is also Virgo (my emotional and intuitive characteristics). Although not super uncommon, most people have different Sun and Moon signs- which usually offers more dynamic and balanced outer and inner worlds. But I am a full-out, full-fledged Virgo…

Subnote: If this is totally new for you (like it was for me) here’s a little more background: Your Signs reveal the unique relationship that the sky, stars and planets had to the Earth at the moment of your birth. For thousands of years, people have been using astrological science as a way to learn about themselves and the workings of the natural world. There’s nothing too “woo-woo” about it once you get past the vague, generic descriptions.

So, as I began learning more about what it meant to be Stacy, the double Virgo, I began to know how to work with -rather fight against- the traits that were an undeniable part of my person. Virgos are typically very careful, methodical, hardworking, resourceful, well spoken, problem solvers who are not afraid to speak their minds. But they’re also typically very shy, overly critical, worrisome, sensitive and fragile.

Before I was equipped with this knowledge, I would unknowingly fight against the traits I thought were weaknesses. I would force myself to be less sensitive, or belittle myself for speaking my mind so fiercely. I didn’t know it was my true nature to be a go-getting business woman with a soft side that also needed tending to. With this awareness, I have been better able to consciously work with and even transform my more challenging traits, while enhancing and using my best traits to their fullest.

In this way, learning my star sign has helped me to grow into my highest self- all “woo-woo” aside.

Not only have I been able to embrace my double-Virgo mind, but I’ve also made a dear friend. Leslie continues to help me foster my best self, and acts as a sort of technician who helps me read my owner’s manual with greater clarity.

I’m a fan and I want everyone to know just how powerful this practice is. You too can be fueled by the awareness of who you are in relationship to the cosmos.

Leslie will be the guest speaker for the next A Day of Namaste (themed Count Your Lucky Stars) on Sunday, April 8, 2018. She will be talking specifically about the planet Mercury and its role in the way we communicate. You won’t wanna miss out!

Follow the link HERE to register for the retreat, and check out Leslie’s website HERE to book your own private reading.

May the stars bless you,

With all my love,

Namaste,

Stacy

What is A Mala?

Ask my students, friends, or husband… it’s rare you’ll see me without one of my Mala Meditation necklaces on. And while I do love how they look, I don’t actually put it on for fashion.
While it would seem that a piece of jewelry is merely part of the material world, a Mala is about something much deeper. When worn with intention, the

 

Power of A Mala lies in historic and energetic qualities. I can honestly attest that my Malas have become an anchor for my practice and a reminder of mindfulness during my crazy work days.
For me, there are a few key distinctions between a Mala and a regular necklace:
  • A Mala, unlike a gold chain, is not designed to be flashy or to seek out external attention. It is a reminder to go within, to seek solace in one’s self, and to deepen one’s internal awareness while out in the world.
  • A Mala, unlike diamond earrings, is not a sign of class or privilege, but a representation of committed reverence and self work.
  • A Mala, unlike jewelry made form synthetic metals, is made from pure Rudraksha Seeds, which have unique conductive properties. These seeds have been honored for centuries as prayer beads, and so also carry an important historic symbolism of the yoga practice.
  • A Mala is inherently designed to support a meditation practice. The 108 beads, when followed carefully with each breath, offer about 35 minutes of focused meditation. And the large bead at the center, called a Bindu Bead (or Guru Bead), can be rubbed gently as a reminder for mindfulness during a busy day.
I believe that each individual should find for herself what tools help to deepen her own practice. For some it may be a Mala, for another it may be a single candle, or an Om charm, or a book of choice. There are many ways to go within, and many tools to help us get there.
Knowing the power of personal choice, I’ve chosen to offer a very special, limited offer for the next A Day of Namaste seasonal wellness retreat. For the first time, I am asking guests to pick their own unique, handmade Meditation Mala!
​​​​​​​If you’re interested in learning more about Malas, Yoga, Meditation, Cleansing, and are dying to begin Living Your Purpose, you must join me for ADON. Send me an email with any questions, or click HERE to learn more.