This article is written by Dr. Robert Heller, a psychologist, sport psychology consultant and USPTA tennis teaching professional based in Boca Raton, Fl. He is the author of the mental conditioning CD-ROM program, TENNISMIND. You can reach him at www.mentalskills.com
It has been more than forty years since I read Tim Gallweys book, “The Inner Game of Tennis”. Little did I know then how much it had to do with yoga and peak performance. Gallwey was a student meditation and yoga and used the medium of tennis to apply sport psychology and yoga principles and practices to sports and life.
As a more recent student of yoga I have discovered it shares many key principles psychology practices designed to train individuals in achieving peak performance in sport, music and other areas of life.
To achieve a peak performance in tennis, we need to have a quiet mind and a calm body. Yoga helps us develop these abilities.
Another useful idea of yoga that facilitates peak performance focus on being fully aware of our body and our senses, noticing what we are focusing on and when we are distracted.
Rather than being preoccupied with the past or anticipating the future, yoga has a present focus on the here and now. Paying attention to what is going on in the present allows tennis players to react quickly to changes they might want to make to improve their performance now. It is really important in tennis.
The idea of “awareness without judgment” is another useful principle that is a key to achieving peak performance. By having awareness but suspending judgment we learn to make critical decisions without being overly self-critical.
The breathing/meditation aspect of yoga helps us regulate our emotions. By being less anxious and angry, our muscles can be more relaxed and movements are more fluid producing better and more consistent results in sports, music and our overall functioning.
I have noticed personally that practicing yoga has impacted my own peak performances.
As a competitive tennis player, I notice experiencing more frequent and longer episodes of,”playing in the zone”, a place where one is performing at their highest level.
As research mounts, I am confident that the usefulness of yoga in attaining peak performance states in tennis will be substantiated.