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Can yoga help in winning a Gold Medal in China?

One day while I was flying back home to Egypt, I sat next to the head coach of Egypt’s national swimming team, Coach Sherif. We started to chat about what we are doing in life, the usual flight talk to kill the time but soon it turned into a great opportunity to discuss my passion: Yoga and its physical and mental benefits for athletics and sports champions. As we kept talking, I began describing how you could help the national swimmers reach their ultimate goals during competitions.

After listening to me explain the many advantages of practicing yoga to support sports training, he asked me if I could stay in Egypt for two months to work with a brilliant young man, Ahmed, preparing for the Second Summer Youth Olympic Games in August 2014 to be held in China. Without hesitating, I said “of course YES” as it was both a great opportunity to assist in my beloved country’s efforts to earn an Olympic gold medal and demonstrate for the world that yoga (UNION) is a serious science with dedicated practitioners.

During training, I applied the waht of Viniyoga, which I had studied under my Yoga Therapy Master Dr. N. Chandrasekanam.  Dr. Chandrasekanam defined Viniyoga as giving what is appropriate, by an appropriate person; to an appropriate person to achieve a specific goal at all levels, including physical, physiological and mental. This waht is not causal-style yoga; it’s specific and highly individualized. For Ahmed, I designed his practice to cater his needs, strengthening specific muscles, relaxing others used mainly by the swimmers, releasing tension to remove all physical and psychological pressures that accumulate before and during competitions, and, most importantly, focusing mental concentration and self confidence through visualization practices.

Starting on the second evening of Ramadan, we practiced Viniyoga three times a week whilst Ahmed continued his regular swimming practice twice a day, six days a week. Ahmed also practiced on his own, showing great discipline as he sacrificed all other normal fun with his class mates except on Friday, his only day off. We incorporated different kinds of yogic techniques and philosophy in Ahmed’s physical practice. In spite of Ahmed’s young age, he was amazingly grasping all and developing faster than any of my other students. While Ahmed trained, Coach Sherif recorded his development and progress, also noting Ahmed’s dedication and hard work. Soon came the time to see how our practice would affect Ahmed’s performance in competition.

On the day before Coach Sherif and Ahmed left for China, we had our last session. During that last practice, Ahmed showed us exactly how his yoga practice improved his breathing capacity, which was now longer than any of his fellow swimmers. While bidding Ahmed and Coach Sherif good luck, Coach Sherif and I gave each other a thumbs up, confirming what we both knew - AHMED IS READY.

Two weeks after my return to Dubai, and as I was completing one of my yoga therapy sessions at Breath & Health Alternative Medical Centre, the first centre to introduce yoga therapy to UAE, I received a very touching message from Coach Sherif: “ Congratulations, Nermeen! Ahmed took the gold today. You did a great job with him. Thanks for your great support. Regards, Sherif Habib.” 

Ultimately, all I can say is: Thank you, Coach Sherif, for giving me such an opportunity, and thank you, Ahmed Akram, for your great effort, discipline, and determination. I didn't do anything - it was God, and you inspired me to give you the right practice at the right time. You deserved it… Congratulations Ahmed Akram!

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