Hougang turn to yoga for results
Coach Bala's novel training sessions works for Hougang players
They are going great guns in the S.League, sitting in third spot, but Hougang United are not getting ahead of themselves as they prepare to take on Geylang International tonight.
Focus has been the buzzword among the Cheetahs and they are confounding their critics with their single-mindedness.
Perhaps it's because coach K Balagumaran (below) has introduced yoga to ensure his players keep their minds on the task at hand.
Speaking to The New Paper, Bala, 51, said: "Yoga is not about flexibility, it's about learning how to effectively balance your concentration.
"It provides a balance in mental, physical and emotional energy."
THREE TIMES A WEEK
The Cheetahs have yoga sessions three times a week, as part of their warm-up before a game, as part of their recovery session the day after a game and during their first training session after a rest day.
The yoga routines last between 30 minutes and an hour. They are conducted by an instructor from Isha Yoga, who focuses on Upa Yoga, which helps with the joints, and Angamardana for fitness and dynamic exercises.
Not surprisingly, yoga had been adopted by top footballers like former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs, who credited the ancient Indian discipline for extending his playing career and reducing injury occurences.
Giggs hung up his boots only at the age of 40.
The Germany national team also have a yoga instructor, who contributed to their World Cup triumph two years ago.
Bala says yoga is especially useful for footballers, who often face injuries involving their hamstrings and lower back.
"It's not a one-time thing, you have to follow the sequence properly and do it consistently," said Bala.
"Frankly, I can see the boys being more energetic after their yoga sessions.
"Just look at (Jozef) Kaplan, after just one month, his flexibility has improved so much.
"Just like sports science and football science, yoga is also a science."
Hougang striker Jozef Kaplan was first introduced to yoga while with Negeri Sembilan in the Malaysian Premier League in 2014.
"When I was first introduced to it, it was less intensive but, now at Hougang, I am able to really feel the benefits," said the Hougang skipper.
The 30-year-old Slovakian found yoga so helpful that he has signed up for courses and has been practising in his free time since.
"Apart from the usual three days a week, I also do an extra two sessions on my own," he said. "Yoga requires a lot of concentration, when we do this before our warm up, it helps the team stay focused on the game."
Japanese midfielder Fumiya Kogure, 26, also believes that the weekly yoga sessions help the team gel.
Defender Delwinder Singh, 23, agreed, adding: "Yoga helps me to stretch my muscles, makes me more flexible and also hypes me up prior to the game."