Australia’s top cricketers are embracing new techniques to help them get a competitive advantage over the opposition, including regular yoga classes.
As part of the 2012 Centre of Excellence AIS scholarship program, athletes were regular attendees at Shri Yoga in Brisbane.
While many were sceptics to start with, most quickly found their perception was a long way from the reality.
“I thought there was going to just be a lot of meditating, but it turned out to be a lot of hard work,” Australia A fast bowler Jackson Bird said.
“I feel like my hips and lower back are a lot looser now.”
Spinner Jon Holland said although he wasn’t familiar with the practice, he was impressed with the results.
“I wasn’t looking forward to it, to be honest. But now that I have come, I’m very happy that I did,” he said.
“I felt a lot freer afterwards - I had been getting quite stiff at training. And it’s always good to sneak in an afternoon nap at the end of the yoga practice, something I don’t usually get to do."
COE Manager and former Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars captain Belinda Clark said cricket needed to investigate all strength and conditioning methods to ensure players bodies work to their full potential.
“It’s imperative cricket looks beyond the boundaries and embraces new or different techniques to look for ways players can get the most out of themselves and potentially, how we can get an edge on the opposition no matter how incremental that may be,” she said.
“I think the players got quite a shock that their perception of yoga was quite different to reality and while perhaps hesitant to start with, they certainly had a better understanding after a couple of tough sessions.”
U19 stars Kurtis Patterson and Ashton Agar embraced a new-found love for yoga.
“Before I came to yoga, I thought it was going to be a lot of relaxation stuff but it turned out to be quite a tough workout,” Patterson said.
“It was good to realise what muscles to use and I also found out some good ways to manage your breathing during high intensity situations.”
“My shoulders and hips feel a whole lot freer than they were when I started the yoga training which is great.”
Agar was also pleased with what he’d learnt from the weekly sessions.
“Like everyone else, I thought it would just be a very relaxing and meditation practice but it was hard – in a good way,” he said.
“I’ve got looser hamstrings and back, and I’ve learned how to manage my body a lot better.”
Shri Yoga’s Julie Smerdon said regular practice of yoga would help improve an athlete’s focus as well as flexibility.
"Practicing Yoga regularly will give these young guys a huge advantage professionally," she said.
"In addition to the benefits traditionally associated with Yoga, Yoga also has a tremendous impact on overall body awareness and focus. Yoga teaches them how to be aware in different parts of the body simultaneously, which greatly enhances agility and response time."
“As their awareness and flexibility increase, I believe that yoga will assist them in avoiding injury. I tell them all the time that their bodies are their livelihood, and it’s in their best interest to take care of them, and to understand how they work."
*images: Dave Nankervis
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 11 August, 2012 12:08PM AEDT