How will the players of Man United and Chelsea have been readying themselves to play in this Saturday’s FA Cup Final clash? After all, it’s no mean feat to perform for 90 minutes (120, if it goes to extra time) after already having run around after a ball for the best part of nine months in the fastest, toughest, most competitive league in the world.
Obviously, if I told you that they would have been doing lots of cardio and structured workouts to improve speed, explosive strength and agility you wouldn’t be surprised. But what if I told you that yoga was also a priority, because no matter what the team selections on Saturday you can guarantee that the 22 men on the pitch will be no strangers to Warrior Pose III.
Yoga is big in football these days – just search #FootballYoga on social media and you’ll see what I mean. And it’s big because two of the biggest buzzwords in football are ‘physical intelligence’. You need only watch Eden Hazard in full flow for Chelsea, or Alexis Sanchez for United, to understand what that phrase means and yoga is one of the disciplines that players and coaches alike realise can help achieve it.
Ryan Giggs was the first to equate the two and the Welsh manager now credits yoga with prolonging his career because it gave him “the flexibility and the strength not only to play the game but to train as well.”
The Premier League is so competitive that clubs realise any edge they can get might be the difference between lifting trophies and ending the season empty handed. Chelsea realised this some time ago and watching from Roman Abramovich’s box on Saturday will be a man called Vinay Menon, the club’s Wellness Consultant who regularly employs yoga sessions with the players. Menon appeared on John Terry’s Instagram time line, when he was Chelsea Captain, helping the 37-year-old defender align his body correctly in a yoga movement
Image Instagram @johnterry26
And Terry has continued his practice at new club Aston Villa pitching up in Villa’s media room with his new trainer Ambro Vallo.
Long gone are the days when tough-tackling, uncompromising English centre backs, like Terry, wouldn’t allow opponents to see any chink in their football armour on or off the field. In the modern game, yoga adds to that armour by showing a different kind of physicality and way to injury proof the body.
Another old school style of player embracing the new methods and showing off his asanas on Instagram is West Ham striker Andy Carroll, 29, who is known primarily for his physical style of play and aerial presence, but began doing Bikram yoga to increase his range of movement. Clearly, the weekly, 90-minute sessions in a room heated to 40 degrees and with a humidity of 40 percent paid off as was evidenced by his stunning bicycle kick against Crystal Palace in the 2016/17 campaign that went down as one of the goals of the season.
And one of the biggest proponents for what yoga can do for footballers is Sharon Heidaripour, a rehabilitator of elite athletes for FIFA and the brains behind Football Yoga. Just recently, Sharon was pictured with Arsenal’s Captain Laurence Koscielny, 32, who shared a photo on social media of one of his Football Yoga sessions along with the comment: “I have been doing yoga since January. I feel a lot better physically – my tendons no longer hurt, and I am more relaxed and positive. I’m able to recover more effectively after matches.” And it’s not just the players who will be benefiting from yoga on Saturday.
Imgae Instagram @footballyoga
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, renowned for his exuberant pitch side histrionics, has even been taking advantage of the practice to help him calm down after games. "There is a person and I'm grateful to my club to have this type of person here," Conte explained earlier this season, clearly referencing Menon. "We do stretching and also at the end of the session a bit of relaxing, 10 minutes. This is good. I like and am very interested in yoga.”
The only question now is who will be practicing the FA Cup victory pose when the final whistle goes on Saturday.
Written by Jon Axworthy For Warrior Addict®