In the often frenetic, turbulent and fast-paced life of professional footballers, it should come as no surprise to hear that many players are turning to yoga.
Barcelona and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi is one, while, closer to home, Manchester City’s versatile Spanish midfielder David Silva is another who practices this ancient art. Two former Manchester United players, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, also subscribe to yoga as a means for helping them to relax, as well as building strength and increasing flexibility.
Giggs firmly believes his longevity as a player at Old Trafford was, in no small way, helped by having regular sessions of yoga.
The Wales international made his first-team debut with the Reds in March 1991, and he played his final game at the Theatre of Dreams more than 23 years later, which may in no small part be due to yoga.
Yoga is now big business all over the globe, with an estimated 300 million practitioners worldwide. In the UK, there are over 10,000 active yoga teachers teaching more than 20,000 classes each week. Among these participants are professional and amateur sportsmen and sportswomen, including footballers.
Sports Yoga, a company that specialises in teaching yoga to footballers, has worked with dozens of players from clubs including Manchester United, Manchester City, Southampton, Bolton, Burnley, Wigan, and Derby. Sarah Ramsden, who runs this company, says that the physical attributes of footballers have changed dramatically during the first couple of decades of the new millennium.
Ramsden told the Daily Telegraph: "The change in the game over recent years is to be faster, sharper, more athletic and more gymnastic, and this is what has really driven the change in attitudes to yoga."
She claims that when she started working with footballers, there were still a large number of "massive central defenders", but that today's player is a totally different specimen altogether.
Giggs, who turned 40 in November 2013, was still fit enough to make 22 first-team appearances for United during his final season, and he has worked regularly with Ramsden over the years.
In the same Daily Telegraph feature, he explained how yoga has helped to reduce stiffness following matches and that it allowed him to train better as a result.
In addition to lengthening the career of Giggs, yoga is becoming more popular year by year. According to a report in the Yoga Journal, more than 35 million people practice yoga in the United States, which is up from 20 million in 2012.
Globally, the yoga market is worth in excess of $80 billion (£74 billion). As a result, yoga – which aims to stimulate body, mind, and soul – is now one of the leisure industry’s great success stories.
Wycombe’s long-serving midfielder Matt Bloomfield has been a keen exponent of yoga for many years and he admitted players from the lower divisions are using it as a means for maintaining their psychological and physical development.
The 35-year-old, who joined Wanderers in 2003, said that Giggs doing yoga on a regular basis has inspired others to follow.
Bloomfield was recommended yoga by a friend who played for Bath City, and the Wycombe man said he experienced a definite improvement in his flexibility and felt it could prolong his career.
The stats seem to suggest he made the correct decision. Bloomfield, who was born in Suffolk and joined Ipswich Town as a teenager, moved to Wycombe and has now played more than 400 games for the Buckinghamshire team.
He is a former England Under-19 international and during the current season has appeared more than 20 times for the League One club who, according to Oddschecker, look likely to finish in a mid-table position this campaign.
So, for all you fitness fanatics and amateur footballers thinking about taking up this ancient art, what are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga uses breathing techniques, exercise, and meditation. It helps to improve health and happiness. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia, while other physical benefits include increased flexibility, as well as increased muscle strength and tone. So, with all of these benefits, we may see yoga extend many more sports careers yet.