"By archery in the traditional sense, which he esteems as an art and honours as a national heritage, the Japanese does not understand a sport but, strange as this may sound at first, a religious ritual. And consequently, by the " art " of archery he does not mean the ability of the sportsman, which can be controlled, more or less, by bodily exercises, but an ability whose origin is to be sought in spiritual exercises and whose aim consists in hitting a spiritual goal, so that fundamentally the marksman aims at himself and may even succeed in hitting himself." ~ Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
A multidisciplinary or, in our case a multi-sport approach to skills development, makes for a more adaptable creative athlete and paves the way for revealing ones highest potential. The Multi Sport approach cultivates what Canadian Sport for Life describes “Physical Literacy.” Basically physical literacy is the ability to perform basic movement patterns that are common to many different sports. Canadian Sport for life suggests that developing a broad range of physical literacies shorten the learning curve for new sports. It also gives developing athletes a broad pallet of skills to work with that makes them uniquely innovative. Often these are a the athletes that we see progressing sports.
I was very luck to have been put into dance lessons at a young age. I started learning Highland Dance at the age of five and went on to compete until my mid teens. It was remarkably demanding on me to memorize all the steps at that young age and very nerve racking to perform in front of large crowds but I gained so much from the experience. One unexpected side benefit was how physically strong it made me.
In grade two when I was seven years old my elementary school held a just for fun track competition. Boys and girls competed together in running races, high jump and other events. When it came to the running race I was really surprised to learn, in-spite the fact I was on the smaller side of kids in my school, I was really fast. In fact, I was one of the fastest kid in my school. All the Highland Dances have at their base a constant jumping motion for the entire duration of the song. All this jumping, it turns out, was excellent cross training for sprinting.
So often we are quick to label a kid who shows promise in a discipline from a young age naturally talented. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, demonstrates that quite often seemingly unrelated experiences and circumstances play a large role in determining who will be exceptionally successful in a given discipline. The idea of natural talent is a bit of a myth.
Yoga is one of those disciplines that cultivates so many physical literacies. Most people when they think of yoga in the context of it's benefit for other disciplines they are pursuing naturally think about increased flexibility however, this is just one small component of the myriad benefits yoga instills. Key amongst these are balance, coordination, core strength, effective breathing, concentration, refined use of muscular effort and an overall heightened sensitivity to as well as awareness of the body.
For skiers yoga provides a perfectly complimentary overlay of physical literacies that lend themselves beautifully to the learning, refinement and perfecting of four foundational skiing competencies. These are balance, alignment, power & flow. However, in the vast unregulated world of yoga there are as many types of yoga practice as there are Yoga Teachers. Skiers have specific needs and limitations that not all yoga practices effectively address.
Next Week: Yoga for Skiers Best Practices, What to Look For in a Yoga Teacher & Practice