Hertha BSC eSports athletes Tom and Eren got to find out themselves how yoga, progressive muscle relaxation and breathing techniques can affect their bodies. In order to understand these methods of relaxation, we spoke with yoga teacher Daniela Draeger. 

Daniela, explain to us what you did with Tom and Eren?

#Yoga: We did a round of Yoga together. Yoga is widely misunderstood as a relaxation technique but it is much more than that. I like to call it looking after your body. Yoga is all about concentration, and using this concentration to coordinate your breathing with your movement. If you can manage to do both simultaneously, the Yoga will eventually feel relaxing. However, prior to this, Yoga can also be very challenging, as the boys found out while undertaking the so-called ‘Asana’ exercises. The aim is to eventually be able to move fluently from one movement to the next, and then you can even practice meditation in movement. First of all, it’s a great workout. Yoga involves a lot of working with your own body weight, as well as constantly testing your flexibility. Therefore, it is a fantastic form of fascia training, making it very versatile. 

#Breathing:  Secondly, we attempted a breathing exercise, the so-called ‘Pranayama’. You could even put this in the same category as Yoga, as Yoga is not only a workout, but also a test of breathing. I decided to teach the boys alternative nostril breathing. This is actually seen as a relaxation technique as it creates a balance in your breathing, correcting it from either too much, or too little, to normal. Alternative nostril breathing is relatively easy to learn. I counted out loud so that it was clear how long to breathe in for, and then when to breathe out of the other side. This balances out our energy levels.

#Progressive muscle relaxation: Finally, we attempted progressive muscle relaxation. This involves progressively tensing the muscles, and then allowing them to rest again. Mr. Jacobsen, who was an American doctor, found that, when they are tensed for an extended period of time, muscles initially signify pain. This is the point when we notice that our bodies are strained. Consequently, he developed a method, whereby you consciously build tension in your body until you discern, “Yes, that’s tense”, and then you release this tension. You should hold the tension for about 20-30 seconds, with the relaxation period lasting just as long, if not longer, before moving onto the next exercise. As a result, the brain can clearly identify: that’s strain, that’s relaxation. In my opinion it is a fantastic method, which can also be useful in everyday life as it helps you to notice: hang on, something’s not right. 

What are the benefits of these exercises?

These are all exercises that will enable recovery, help you consciously perceive states of stress, allow you to have a better understanding of your body, and to sense where you are feeling tight or tense, or perhaps where does something hurt. You can find out where you are weak, where you aren’t flexible enough, and also sense what parts of your body feel at ease and how you can breathe your way through the pain of a sprain, because, if we hold the tension or strain in the fascia tissue for a moment, the body then relaxes after a few deep breaths. This works quite quickly.

Would you recommend all three techniques in the same manner for every person?

Everyone can do everything from the beginning but it’s always a question of character. If someone starts with a high level of tension, they’re hot, nervous, and if I put them on the mat and say, “Breathe!” then it’s likely that it won’t do anything for them. In that case something more active, like Yoga for example, will be much more meaningful for really observing your own body.

If you named the benefits of each individual technique – what would they be?

#Yoga: Everyone should do Yoga (laughs). You should do Yoga in order to improve how well you know your body, to learn your own capabilities and to develop these bit by bit. You can also take what you learn on the mats into everyday life. You gain composure, since we experience so many limitations in a number of areas whilst on the mats, e.g. being not strong or flexible enough. You need to learn to accept this; to push through the pain and, slowly but surely develop a certain level of calmness.  

#Progressive muscle relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation works superbly as a form of ‘relaxation on the go’. When you are sitting at your desk, or e-sportsmen are playing on their consoles, and you suddenly notice a tweak in your shoulders or in your neck, you normally respond by grinding your teeth or something similar. Instead, you can simply tense your body parts, and release them again.

#Breathing: Through our breathing we can gain instant access to our central nervous system. We can either up-regulate, or de-regulate our breathing to suit our needs. We can either energise or relax ourselves. Through our breathing we have direct control over our heartbeat. Therefore, we can actually control our stress levels through our breathing. That’s where the saying, “take a deep breath” comes from. However, it’s important that everyone finds out which option suits them best, which can then be great for daily use.

All of these methods of relaxation regulate our blood levels, balance out the tension in our bodies and improve our breathing rate, therefore serving to improve the supply of oxygen to the body.

[Translate to English:]

Ihr wollt auch Yoga machen oder etwas für euren Rücken tun? Daniela bietet ihre Kurse unter anderem für Versicherte der AOK Nordost an. Bersonders interessant: Für Gesundheitskurse gibt es einen Zuschuss zu den Kursgebühren. Mit Sicherheit findet ihr auch einen Gesunfheitskurs in eurer Nähe.