MUMBAI: Trust Sathiyan Gnanasekaran to find new ways to learn. At a time when training with sparring partners was still a thing, the Indian paddler got hold of a Butterfly Amicus Prime Robot from Germany last October. And even as that high-tech machine is coming to good use in these times of a lockdown, the 27-year-old is now practising a unique yoga form specifically designed for sportspersons.
The TAC yoga and mental training centre in Faridabad has come up with Yoga for Sports programme, which Sathiyan has lapped up over the last couple of months. Deriving its roots from Iyengar Yoga – founded by the late BKS Iyengar, the Padma Vibhushan awardee considered to be one the most prominent yoga teachers in the world – TAC yoga for sports uses a range of props to aid athletes to work on specific muscles.
Apart from the table tennis racquets, Sathiyan’s companions at home these days include ropes, belts, foam bricks, bolster pillows and a chair – there’s a specially designed chair for it called Iyengar chair (without the back rest) but Sathiyan has to make do with a normal one at home. He uses these props to do various asanas – he clutches on to those ropes and belts hanging by a wall for Salamba Sirsasana (head stand) and uses the chair for Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand).
“This is something I have done for the first time, and I found it to be unique. I have been given a customised regime, where I have to develop my core and back muscles using these props,” Sathiyan said.
Sathiyan first got a taste of this in March, when he spent a week at the TAC centre in Faridabad – founded and run by the brother-sister duo of Hemant K Gaur and Vijaya Gaur – days before the nationwide lockdown was announced. Impressed with the maiden experience, the Chennai-based paddler decided to continue picking it up at home.
Sathiyan has been spending an hour-and-a-half in the morning and evening six days a week doing this for around two months, yet it doesn’t leave him feeling drained out.
“The relaxation techniques are equally good. For example, once I have worked on a specific muscle by doing the asana, it is followed by a stretching drill immediately. That way, the muscles don’t become too tight. In fact, they build strength on the muscles,” he said.
The use of props, according to Hemant, becomes imperative for sportspersons, most of whom tend to focus on muscular fitness. “Along with muscular strength, one also needs flexibility and one-pointed focus to practice these asanas. The use of props lends access to the asanas, even to those sportspersons who have injuries. Hence, the props deliver the effect of asanas without the effort of asanas,” Hemant, a disciple of BKS Iyengar and a former national level table tennis player himself, said.
He added that they created a specific regime for Sathiyan – like they would for any sportsperson depending on their body constitution – based on various fronts for a more holistic development. “Those fronts include musculoskeletal system, sleep quality and restfulness, metabolism and endocrine functions, oxygen absorption, lung capacity and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, among other things.
“When Sathiyan was at our centre, he said he has never got the kind of quality sleep that he got within a day of attending our sessions,” Hemant said.
The world No 32 Sathiyan, who is India’s second-highest ranked paddler after Sharath Kamal displaced him from the top spot last month and is gunning for a Tokyo Olympics berth, can already feel the difference in terms of his flexibility and mental freshness.
“Yoga has always been hard for me, because my body is not that flexible. But this has shown me the right way forward. I feel my body is starting to move better now. And even the mental part has seen a huge difference – I’m doing a lot of meditation and breathing exercises like kapalbhati and pranayama along with the asanas,” he said.
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