Christen Press, the 26-year-old professional soccer forward who helped the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team win the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in July, explains how yoga and meditation “quiet the distractions” in her life and make her a more dynamic athlete. Plus: Her twice-daily Vedic meditation ritual.
YJ: How does practicing yoga three times a week make you a more dynamic soccer player?
Press: Practicing yoga makes me a happier soccer player. Sometimes, thoughts freeze you. When I'm able to play thought-free, I am more dynamic and natural. This thoughtlessness is something that yoga and meditation instilled in me. There is also a core group of the national team that regularly practices yoga together during camp.
YJ: Are there any particular yoga poses that you use in your training, and why?
Press: The most important poses in my practice for training purposes are hip openers, shoulder openers, and hamstring lengtheners. These poses help me release some of the tension in my back. I enjoy balancing sequences with Tree Pose, Warrior III, and Half Moon Pose. And Rabbit Pose is a new addition that really helps release my neck.
YJ: How did you get turned on to Ayurveda?
Press: My sister Channing Press started a Vedic Meditation company called Piece of Peace. She studied Ayurveda in India and taught me about it.
YJ: How have you used Ayurveda as a woman? As an athlete?
Press: Mostly I use it for stress relief, which ties into all aspects of my life -- social, career, mood -- and to stay present. I often use a heat pack or soak my feet in hot water to help with my circulation and quiet anxious thinking. I love grounding by walking through sand or grass. My sister performs Reiki on me.
YJ: Vedic Meditation originated from the ancient Hindu Vedas (Veda is Sanskrit for “knowledge”). Tell us more about how it works.
Press: Vedic Meditation is an ancient, effortless, and natural form of meditation. This meditation is practiced for 20 minutes twice daily while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It delivers benefits right away by helping your mind settle down. During the meditation, you repeat your prescribed mantra, letting it guide you toward a state of deep relaxation. Remember, meditation is not all about “euphoria” and relaxation. My experiences have included several unpleasant, stress-relieving or anxious, mind-wandering meditations. This is an expected part of the de-stressing process.
YJ: When the world is watching you and commenting on you, how do you keep your focus and buoyancy? Any tricks for tuning out the voices and keeping your head in the game?
Press: I think meditation is all about quieting the distractions. I never need to be thinking about the outside world and commentary while I'm playing. Meditation and yoga have helped teach me how to stay focused and balanced by continually coming back to the present moment and stripping the power away from the infiltrating thoughts.
YJ: What is the ONE thing you’d tell people about Ayurveda?
Press: I would tell them my sister's story. She has transformed her life through meditation and is a light. She struggled with depression in high school and college when juggling the pressures of being an elite student athlete. She now lives to serve and teach others.
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