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Could it Save Reece James? How Yoga Helped Giggs and Zlatan Playing into their 40s

Could it Save Reece James? How Yoga Helped Giggs and Zlatan Playing into their 40s

Chelsea captain Reece James has had a disastrous start to the 2023/24 season after sustaining a hamstring injury in training, building to his injury-prone nature, and it might be high time that he delved into yoga to help improve his general fitness levels.

While James is a hard-working player on the pitch, he can’t stay away from injuries and has seen a similar issue continue haunting him for a long time. Last year, James refrained from undergoing knee surgery to fix a co-existing issue for him and it now looks like he’s suffered a fresh blow after getting over that issue.

The 23-year-old has suffered 13 different injuries over the last four seasons or so, which is way too much for a player of his age. He is currently in his developing years into becoming what many Chelsea fans believe can be the best right-back in Europe, but his injuries keep dragging him back.

How yoga helped Zlatan and Giggs extend their careers

At this point, it’s clear that James doesn’t work hard enough to keep his body in optimum shape and is more focused on improve parts of his game or over-work himself, causing disaster. Working with injury specialists doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, so it could be smart for him to take up yoga to help him extend his career into the late 30s or even 40s.

For those unknowing, yoga is actually performed by many footballers around the world to keep themselves flexible, mobile and also to keep their bodies from breaking down or sustaining unnecessary injuries.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has credited yoga with helping him recover from the awful knee injury he sustained at the age of 36 in his first season at Manchester United, and allowing him to play into his 40s.

Ryan Giggs, who made 963 appearances for United and played until he was 41, also revealed that yoga helped him stay free from major injuries and keep his body going, as he said: “I started yoga at the age of 29 or 30 because I kept getting hamstring injuries. I spoke to the doctors and the physios at the club and I said I wanted to do everything I could to change it.

“Yoga had a big effect and it helped me carry on playing until I was 40. It works not just your hamstrings, groin and quads but also your calves, glutes, lower back, neck, sides and core. It helps to prevent injuries and makes you more supple and flexible. That’s why I still do it today.”

Which other footballers practice yoga?

James was actually once recorded in a video alongside England captain Harry Kane to be taught some yoga by an instructor and failing miserably, as he just couldn’t get himself into the positions or move his body parts well enough to match the instructor – something which has gotten him a lot of flak till now.

With that being said, with millions of people practicing daily yoga despite not being the ‘elite footballer’ he is, it’s quite clear that practicing yoga is no real mammoth task. On top of that, if James feels that he’d be ‘too young’ to be practicing yoga and that it’s something that the ‘senior players’ do, he’d be badly wrong.

Apart from the ones mentioned before, a lot of elite Premier League footballers still practice yoga to this day to keep themselves fit and injury-free. Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is a big believer in yoga and his ‘namaste’ celebration is an ode to that, as he said: “I am a yoga man. I do yoga and it just came to my mind.”

Even Erling Haaland has incorporated it to his lifestyle and practices it quite regularly to keep his big, physical body from breaking down – with yoga also helping him perform at optimum levels and continue being a goal machine.

Apart from these two, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have also shown themselves to be believers of practising yoga to keep themselves in top shape into their late 30s. When it comes to what yoga exercises he can practice to improve his fitness levels and reduce injury, a yoga expert Deb Baisley – who runs a Yoga Bee studio in Manchester – had said: “There are lots of different types, all of which have different benefits.

“I don’t think footballers would, generally, want to be doing something like a fast yoga class. I think what benefits them more is something like a deeper stretch in a slower-paced class, like Yin or power yoga, where you are holding postures but not for too long.

“We work a lot on balance, one-legged squats and tree postures (such as Salah’s), things like that. Football is an imbalanced sport, you’re kicking with one leg more than the other, pushing off and landing on one leg a lot and changing direction suddenly, so improving core strength and balance can be hugely beneficial.

“At the beginning of each practice, you’d normally do what is called a ‘sun salutation’, which works every part of your body as a warm-up. I wouldn’t recommend a player does a particularly strenuous yoga session before a match or a training session, but the sun salutation could be really beneficial, and can be done in less than 10 minutes.”

James, who has been mocked as ‘Captain Tired’ already, needs to eradicate that reputation by working not just hard, but smartly in doing a number of different exercises to keep his body from breaking down. Yoga, for now, seems an ideal plan to help him not only solve his short-term issues, but also help him sustain a lengthy career in the long term.