"Yoga is really good because you have to switch your brain off"
So says Kate Richardson-Walsh, Captain of the GB Women's Hockey Team who won Olympic Gold in Rio 2016.
Karen Brown was the guest speaker at the Hinchley Wood Sports Awards Evening last night. She coached the GB Women's Hockey team to victory at the 2016 Rio Olympics, having totted up over 350 caps. Her speech was inspiring.
Karen described how the GB team were not always top of their game and even finished 11th place in the 2014 World Cup. They decided that if they were going to win, they would need to play as a team with every member feeling equal. It made all the difference.
There was also the question of confidence. Karen talked about how Hollie Webb used to blush every time captain Kate Richardson-Walsh, spoke to her - even though they played on the same team. However, she was the one to step up to strike the winning penalty against The Netherlands. Just as she was about to walk on to the pitch, Karen Brown told her, "If they miss and you win your penalty, we've won the Olympic gold!" The stadium was filled with the sound of booing from the Dutch fans. Hollie knew what she had to do and she dug deep. However, it was not until she had the gold medal around her neck, that she dared to believe that she could win an Olympic gold medal.
The GB Team were made up of normal individuals, who happened to be very talented. Some had exceptional technical ability and others exceptional mental strength. The GB team practise yoga to stretch their muscles and optimise recovery. "Yoga is like a buffer for us. We get into such crazy positions as hockey players - the lower back and hips get really tight - so yoga enables us to get back to a neutral point so that we can destroy our bodies again," said Kate. She also finds yoga relaxing, "Yoga is really good because you have to switch your brain off - you can't be thinking about that training session, that meeting, what's coming up tomorrow."
Goalie, Maddie Hinch, does hot yoga. "It's been so beneficial for keeping my body strong and avoiding major injuries, although it's a lot harder than recovering in the pool! It's also great for flexibility - something that's crucial as a goalkeeper".
Practising yoga can enhance your ability to keep calm in the big pressure moments. The pressure of taking a penalty cannot be rehearsed, but you can practice being absorbed in the moment and not letting anything distract you.
Yoga guru, Pattabhi Jois, said famously, "Practice and all is coming". Practice, reflect, listen and repeat. Don't let anything or anyone hold you back from your dreams.