Yoga is derived from Sanskrit word ’Yuj’ which means union or to join. It means the unification of atma with Parmatma. Yoga is a true union of our will with the will of God. It is a method by which one obtains control of one's latent powers. It makes the organs of our body active in their functioning and has good effect on internal functioning of the body. We can define yoga as 'checking the impulse of mind' according to Patanjali. It was Patanjali's Yoga Sutras who refined and systematized yoga.
Modem men have adopted yoga to gain peace in mind which ultimately leads to good health and fitness.
Role of Yoga in Physical Fitness : The prolonged practice of yoga leads the student to a sense of peace with his/her environment. Asanas cater to the needs of every individual according to his physical condition and capacity. Various effects of yoga on individuals are stated below :
1. Improvement in Concentration Power : The concentration power is very significant in the field of sports. Concentration is required approximately in all games and sports. In fact, endurance, strength and desire to excel lose their meaning if there is no concentration. For example, when a badminton player displays his concentration his gaze is fixed on shuttle and his energy, tactics and skill produce very good results for him. Some asanas like Vajrasana, Vriksasana, Padmasana and Siddasana, etc., and Pranayama such as Ujjayi, Kapalbhati and Bhastrika, etc., are beneficial for the improvement of concentration power. .
2. Improvement in the function of Respiratory System : Generally, it is observed that an individual uses one-sixth of the full capacity of the lungs. If the complete capacity of the lungs is brought into proper use it can give best results. By doing Pranayama, the lungs' capacity can be increased which is always beneficial for sports activities related to endurance. Research studies have shown that Pranayama is extremely beneficial for swimmers. The various forms of Pranayama, i.e., Ujjayi, Sheetkari and Bhastrika enhance the function of respiratory system. It also increases will power and vital air capacity of the individual.
3. Improvement in Skeleton System :
Research studies have also shown that various yogic exercises enhance the strength of cartilages and ligaments to bear the maximum stress. These yogic exercises also increase the flexibility of joints. These changes are beneficial in various sports activities. These yogic exercises are specially significant in gymnastics, diving and swimming, etc. , .
4. Prevents Sports Injuries : Sportspersons have a tendency to get injuries such as sprain, strain, muscle cramp or rupture and fractures, etc. Such injuries can be prevented by practice of yogasanas. Therefore, yogasanas should be performed during warming-up or in conditioning period for preventing sports injuries.
5. Improvement in Motor Skill Learning : Motor skill learning plays a vital role in the performance in sports and games. While learning a motor skill, tension and stress are common for a learner. Yogic practices relax the learner so he can learn the motor skill easily and accurately. Along relaxation, yoga helps in concentration of the learner which further improves the motor skill learning.
6. Improvement in Cardio-vascular Efficiency: Yogic practices mainly Pranayama, improve the cardio-vascular efficiency of an individual. Various types of Pranayama such as Ujjayi, Kapalabhati and Bhastrika are beneficial for increasing such efficiency. Research studies also
indicate that Pranayama improves cardio-vascular fitness if an individual practices it regularly for a prolonged period. On the other hand, it is a well-known fact that cardiovascular fitness is essential in games and sports for improvement in performance. After viewing the above-mentioned physiological and psychological effects of various yogic practices, it can be concluded that yoga is beneficial for improving and
maintaining general health and fitness for individuals. It is helpful in achieving the aim of World Health Organization, i.e., "Health for All" because it prevents and cures various diseases. But when we think about its role in the field of sports specially in competitive sports; it has little to do. It is not so significant in the field of sports as it is thought. The main reason may be that only a few research studies have been conducted on the role of yoga in sports. Along this the studies, which have been conducted, are not based on large population of sportspersons and seem to be less authentic. In fact, sufficient number of studies should be conducted on large population and meta-analysis should be done. But it does not mean that it has nothing to do with the sports. Nowadays, different yogic practices are being applied on the national level teams for improving the performance of players.