| By Ricky Becker
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

I admit when I was younger I used to think of yoga as a cute, little activity for old people with time on their hands, or for people who weren’t overly athletic who wanted to feel like they were doing something physical. In my early 30s, long after my playing career was over, I tried it and it confirmed my overall non-alternative medicine point of view. It felt like a waste of time for me.

I was wrong. Big time.

On January 5, 2021 I was doing what I thought was a YouTube stretching video when the floor of the instructor Adrian Mishler started creaking, “Don’t you just love creaky floors,” she said. In a surprised, zen-like state, I agreed that in fact I really like the naturalness of a creaky floor. I looked at the title of the video and saw it was yoga, so I did it again the next day, and the day after that…and the day after that. Then later that week, I found myself appreciative of the faceless people who made the dotted lines on the highway so we would all know where we should be driving. I was noticing myself subconsciously exhale and calm down when something irritated me.

What was happening to me?!

Yoga has made me my best self. I don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s easier for me to focus in stressful times, makes life move slower to the extent I feel like I have more time to react and while I only use yoga as a supplement to working out, it has made me more flexible. I also undoubtedly feel more coordinated and more aware of how certain parts of my body make other parts of my body move. It also makes me appreciative but not necessarily satisfied with what I have.

Let’s pivot to tennis, the theme of this magazine. All of the benefits I listed above are applicable to competitive tennis.

►Not sweating the small stuff. When playing a match, does it help to worry about the wind, bad bounces and net cords.  It’s good to be alert to these things but worrying about them can throw throw a player off their game

►Focusing during stressful times. A lot of yoga is focusing on breathing and getting lost in yourself and bringing yourself back in when your mind naturally wonders. This is what a player is supposed to do when they go behind the baseline and looks at their racket playing with their strings and playing the next point.

►Making life move slower. A common description of people playing “in the zone” is that they feel like everything that their opponent is doing is moving in slow motion and the player in the zone has more than enough time to react to everything.

►Increased flexibility. Easily one of the most underrated assets to a player’s tennis game.

►Coordination and body awareness. When making an error it is beneficial to the player if they knew what part of their body or kinetic chain let them down rather than “just a bad swing.”

►Appreciation but not satisfied with what one has. Look no further than Rafael Nadal. He appreciates his success, the people who have helped him, the ball kids, etc. But at the same time he still has the hunger to achieve more.

Maybe it was a perfect storm. I was trying to live through my kids and with the approximately 30-minutes I spend alone doing “Yoga with Adriene” videos alone in my dark basement with only the light of my television it got me back to me. I know yoga is not for everyone or maybe somebody has to be ready for it but if you are still up to the bottom of this article do yourself a favor and try one of her videos once. 

If it changes one person’s life for the better or if it helps one player control their emotions on the court, this whole article is worth it. Who knows, maybe you will end up doing 583 straight days of yoga and still look forward to it every day as well.

 

Ricky Becker is The Director of Tennis at Glen Oaks Club.  Ricky also coaches high-performance juniors throughout the year and has been the Director of Tennis at three of Long Island’s biggest junior programs.  As a player, Becker was the Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis team and ranked in the top-five nationally as a junior.  He can be reached at rbecker06@yahoo.com, 516-359-4843 or via juniortennisconsulting.com.