When New Zealander John Wright took charge as coach of the Indian cricket team, he made yoga compulsory for the players. It all started in Bengaluru in the early 2000s as Indian cricketers including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and others learnt yoga from renowned guru Dr. SN Omkar at preparatory camps.
On the occasion of International Yoga Day today (June 21), Dr Omkar spoke exclusively to International Business Times, India and stressed the importance of yoga for sportspersons. Also, he said he was ready to train the Virat Kohli-led team if the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) approaches him.
Question: How important is yoga for a sportsperson?
Dr SN Omkar: Sports are competitive in nature. It needs tremendous emotional balance. Yoga helps physically and psychologically too. It gives them strength, stability, makes them agile. The asanas and pranayama help them mentally also. But they should not stop just there. They should understand the perspective of yoga as propounded by safe Pathanjali where he talks about social and personal conduct. That discipline is also very important. And through that, a sportsperson can have a good emotional balance which is essential. So, that forms a comprehensively good personality where a sportsperson can have a fruitful sporting life. Even after an active sporting career is over, they can continue to practise yoga. When other forms may be difficult, as they need some gadgets, this is something which they don't need any gadgets.
For those who have reached the highest level, playing for the country, the retirement life could be little difficult. The amount of media, the public attention they get when active is different from post-retirement life. Yoga creates a mindset where they can get that equanimity so that these things don't disturb them so that they can have a better life after quitting sports.
Q: You have conducted yoga classes for the Indian cricket team. Tell us about that experience?
Dr Omkar: I was with the Indian cricket team when Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar and others were playing. At the time, they did not make it compulsory for cricketers to yoga. Whoever wanted to practice, they did. But when John Wright came in as India coach, it changed. Of course before that Karnataka cricketers Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath and Rahul Dravid were actively involved. Coach John Wright was very much impressed that he was the one who made yoga compulsory for Indian cricketers and incorporated it in all preparatory camps in Bangalore. After that, coach Greg Chappell too continued the same. Both Wright and Chappell gave big boost to yoga among cricketers. They two also practised yoga along with the players.
Q: You have taught yoga to some of the great Indian cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and others. How did they embrace your methods?
Dr Omkar: They were deeply connected with yoga. Before I started sessions with the Indian team, Anil Kumble used to come to my yoga classes. He and Srinath used to come for rehabilitation after their surgeries. In fact, Kumble, during that time, had admitted that yoga had helped him immensely. Sachin Tendulkar was very much impressed with my techniques. Even after regular sessions with the team, he practised yoga for 45 minutes extra with me. At the time, he had a stiff back and he took up yoga very seriously. He was one of the ardent followers of yoga.
Q: If the current Indian cricket team, led by Virat Kohli, approaches you, are you ready to offer your services?
Dr Omkar: Yes, absolutely. As a yoga person from then to now, I have gained a better knowledge and I have better experience. I am more than willing to be involved with the current team if they are ready for it.