Stiffening joints and strained muscles are not just for the elderly. Athletes inflict a tremendous amount of pressure on their bodies in order to perform.
If they do not invest in guaranteeing a high standard of overall mobility in addition to specific muscle and joint movement for their particular sport, they are increasing their chances of injury both in the short and long term.
Ruptured achilles, sprained ankles, torn rotary cuffs, pulled back muscles, nerve damage in the neck and spine are only a handful of the injuries athletes experience and physios are employed to rectify.
The majority of injuries seen hobbling around and covered in sports tape are avoidable when an athlete is determined to take mobility as seriously, if not more so, than their strength and conditioning workouts. However, all too often mobility doesn’t become the focus until an injury occurs.
Whether this is due to the sense of being invincible and of the mindset that ‘if there is no pain, then it’s not an issue’ or the assumption that strength and conditioning cover mobility, all athletes will be faced with setbacks at some point in their career which challenge their attitude towards stretching.
When you think of stretching, automatically a few things come to mind.
Stretches you’ve seen others attempt to do before physical exercise, perhaps leg swings or toe touches. Possibly stretches by the physio or if you’re brave enough you might have even gone to a chiropractor to have your joints cracked in the hope of relieving some pressure and increasing your range of motion.
Aside from visits to the chiropractors, the most controversial preventative and rehabilitation method is yoga. Twisting and contorting the body in an effort to increase flexibility and prevent injury has been suggested as one of numerous benefits of yoga.
As an athlete that has suffered many injuries and setbacks in their short career this far, I’ve been intrigued by yoga but hesitant due to the spiritual implications that the practice grew from. At it’s roots, yoga stems from Eastern Religion.
The quest for self-enlightenment through meditation is still apparent in modern yoga classes. It often encourages clearing the mind and pushing aside all thoughts, superficially this seems to be a nice way to relax and let go of the pressure to perform and allow you to become in tune with your body.
But beneath it, this does open doors to the spiritual realm where unknowingly our subconscious can be negatively influenced. So as a Christian, should we roll out the mat and step into the world of yoga?
A biblical position
Various conversations on the topic with Christians from New Zealand, Australia, Egypt and Asia have pointed to Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 1-13. Paul is discussing whether Christians should consume meat that has been sacrificed to idols.
This passage in the Bible can be used to thoughtfully consider many things we encounter in the world. If we replace meat with yoga in this passage, we have the opportunity to determine our stance on the issue whilst acknowledging a biblical position.
Verses 1-3 speaks about knowledge and to be weary of its pitfalls because what matters more than knowledge is our relationship with God. Verses 4-6 serve as a reminder of there being only one God thus rendering all idols worthless. Verses 7-9 inform us that not everyone knows of God and Jesus’s sacrifice for us.
Therefore, partaking in practices related to idols has the potential to take a heavy toll on the conscious of a weak spirit.
Whilst partaking in something such as yoga does not mean we are condemned by God, God does care when the freedom to do so is used carelessly in a way that could lead a fellow believer who is not yet solid in their Christian foundation vulnerable to misguidance.
Paul leaves us to discern whether or not we should partake in idol related practices by reminding us in verses 10-13 that if there is any chance that we could cause a brother or sister to stumble in their faith then we should avoid it.
Therefore, if you are considering yoga for personal mobility and physical rehabilitation, bear in mind Paul’s teaching and carefully reflect and seek God’s wisdom on whether or not you should attend a class.
Mhairi-Bronté Duncan plays Curling for New Zealand and uses her experiences as an athlete to inspire her writing.