Taking care of one’s physical and mental health is challenging, especially given the many distractions preventing humans from maintaining healthy habits, such as lack of time, inability to adopt a new practice, and even lack of confidence in making positive changes. Success is possible, but you need to be consistent in your practice. When a student decides to take up yoga, they must keep in mind that they will begin a virtuous cycle that will directly impact their own longevity.
This is because consistency will consolidate the neural processes that create new pathways in the brain and, consequently, in the body. Throughout life, our motor development happens according to our behaviors, the tasks performed, our biology, and the environment in which we live. Each day, the information from this flow is consolidated in every cell in the body and brain, shaping our abilities and, consequently, our health.
When we dedicate ourselves to a specific sport, such as soccer, for example, despite putting our bodies in motion and doing what we like, we run the risk of suffering from injuries that, without proper restoration, will accumulate. Note here that there is a difference between consistency and specialization. The former is a continuous habit based on physical well-being and capable of restoring our body, while the latter is a continuous act of attrition that, in the medium and long term, will cause us physical decline and can easily impact motor skills.
Consistency in yoga practice is a superpower, as it promotes a self-massage that reaches the numerous vertebrae affected by specialization. It is a process of complete restoration, helping us recover from the damage caused by stressful sports practices.
This is what happened for one of my oldest students, Carlos, a high-performance athlete who was a semi-professional futsal player. Futsal is a game a bit like soccer played on hard courts that are smaller than a traditional soccer pitch, with a smaller ball, fewer players and often indoors. Carlos came to me more than 20 years ago with many injuries. Initially, he saw me for chiropractic treatment, but I soon realized that his body needed something more effective and profound, like yoga.
Today, at 63, he continues to participate in futsal matches with his friends – many of whom are much younger – maintaining excellent performance. It was the consistency with yoga that contributed to the recovery of the many issues that accumulated in his body over the years of playing. Even more, his story shows us that it is possible to age better, living an intensely active lifestyle and with better health. I consider this a successful case of yoga that also shows how consistency is a superpower in the quest for better ageing towards longevity!
“Yoga is not a short-term remedy”
During Carlos’ seventeen uninterrupted years dedicated to futsal, he won many awards. Those years were, however, also unforgiving to Carlos’ body. Not only because of the physical wear and tear of playing at a high level but also because, according to him, he had flat feet, which led to increasingly persistent ankle and knee pain when running on the hard courts.
Futsal demands a lot of physical endurance from the athlete. The movement of the game is marked by intense acceleration and deceleration and movements that require high levels of agility. There is also a lot of physical contact between players, who run consistently on courts ranging from 25 to 42 meters long by 16 to 22 meters wide. In addition, the timing of the competitions means there is reduced time for recovery.
A survey conducted by academics at the Federal University of Santa Catarina to identify the most frequent injuries in athletes participating in the National League in 2009 showed that muscle injury, sprain, tendonitis, and low back and neck pain were the most commonly reported by athletes or the coaching staff. For the scholars, the data reinforced the need to develop muscle strength, flexibility, motor coordination, and proprioception – the ability to recognize the body’s spatial position and orientation – to prevent injuries.
Given the demands of the sport, it was not surprising that in a medical consultation, Carlos was advised to stop playing to avoid further issues, which were likely inevitable. Two decades ago, indoor soccer demanded more from the athlete’s bodies—the courts were harder, and the rules meant there was a lack of substitutions, meaning players would have to compete even when injured, overloading the body even more. Carlos, however, was used to carrying acute injuries, and he chose to ignore the medical advice and continue in the sport he loved.
One day, talking to a friend from the soccer group, he complained about the ankle issues that were creating pain. His friend advised him to seek out Francisco Kaiut, who was working as a massage therapist and in the early years of developing the Kaiut Yoga Method.
“I went to meet Francisco and, from the beginning, I thought he was a remarkable person, with an impressive service, very different from anything I had ever seen in my life. We agreed to continue with the massages once every two weeks to treat my pain.” As time went by, the treatment improved Carlos’ general condition. Despite this, Francisco suggested yoga classes that worked like self-massage and allowed access to areas of the body that would lead to more efficient recovery of Carlos’ injuries.
At first, Carlos refused because the yoga classes coincided with soccer games. However, doubts and internal questioning made the decision difficult. Until then, soccer always came first, and nothing had ever challenged that. The opinion of his soccer friends also became an obstacle. “How could I explain that I would stop playing to practice yoga? For sure, some would think I had gone crazy. Others, who were uninformed about yoga, particularly this Method of Francisco’s, would think I would rather stay in a room, listening and chanting mantras than running on the courts. Who would understand that?”
In June 1999, Carlos finally decided to step away from soccer for a while and started classes every Monday and Wednesday for one and a half hours. “Six months later, my friends asked me to play again on Monday nights. I didn’t accept the invitation because in such a short time I had such amazing results that this time I chose not to abandon yoga. I had already done other treatments, physical therapy, and taken anti-inflammatory drugs, but nothing had been as effective for my pain.”
For Carlos, it was very clear from the beginning that yoga was not merely a short-term remedy. “If it was that, it would be magic or something. I understood that it was a long-term resource that would deliver deep healing and amazing results in a few years.”
To be continued…]