The glaring need for mental wellness in sportspersons came to the forefront when four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka, refused to appear in French Open’s post-tennis match conference. Facing pinching questions from the media, exhausted her that made her suffer through long bouts of depression. Sachin Tendulkar, in his 24-year long cricket career, too battled with anxiety issues for 10-12 years and dealt with many sleepless nights before matches.
For the audience or spectators, this might not seem to be a big deal due to their preconceived notion that sportspersons are celebrities. For them, handling anxiety and stress should be an innate quality, but in reality, it is different.
A sportsperson’s career progression undergoes multiple ups and downs. The constant pressure of performing well and being on top takes a toll on a player’s mental wellbeing. It just takes a failure in one or two match events where people begin to criticise a player’s competence and develop a negative atmosphere driven by public-led judgments and opinions for a player’s retirement.
Considering the mental wellbeing of an athlete to be paramount before such high-voltage sporting events, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), has announced its partnership with Dhyana, a meditation-tracking start-up for the mental wellbeing of its athletes for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. With this partnership, India has become the first country to do so.
Why was this partnership with Dhyana necessary?
The Indian Olympic Association felt it was necessary to prioritise mental wellness, improve focus, productivity and help players achieve their mindfulness goals amidst the ongoing pandemic.
A sportsperson’s career progression undergoes multiple ups and downs. The constant pressure of performing well and being on top takes a toll on a player’s mental wellbeing.
Why was Dhyana Chosen?
In 2018, the International Olympic Committee summit in Lausanne raised concerns about the importance of mental wellness in sports. India has a rich heritage of yoga and meditation and the Indian Olympic Association recognised the need for mental wellness and decided to opt for a mental wellness solution that amalgamates technology with traditional yoga and meditation. Hence, Dhyana becomes the first official device to be used at the Olympics.
How was Dhyana Chosen?
Dhyana is the brainchild of India’s badminton legend Pullela Gopichand and Oxford University alumnus Bhairav Shankar. The Indian Olympic Association has acquired Dhyana’s health management services for the entire Indian contingent.
Dhyana might have been chosen owing to the credibility of its founder Pullela Gopichand who has been a successful coach to give India, Olympic medallists like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, and other players like Sai Praneeth and Parupalli Kashyap, winners of coveted International badminton titles.
How is Dhyana Intended to Provide Mental Wellness?
Dhyana has introduced rings, a wearable device that is capable of measuring ‘mindful minutes’, or the amount of time a person is focusing during a meditation session. The rings work by tracking a person’s Heart Rate Variability (HRV), or the gap in between two consecutive heartbeats, which is further broken down into the three fundamentals of every meditation session – the quality of breathing, focus and relaxation.
Dhyana’s rings provide bio-feedback to give a measurable and scientific way of tackling stress, increase focus and build a positive state of mind through the power of meditation.
What Lies Ahead for the Future of Mental Wellness Platforms in Sports?
Stress and anxiety are major hurdles that tend to impede a player’s performance. Mental wellness apps and devices in Indian sports are yet in their infancy in India.
But, there lies a potential market for data-driven mental wellbeing solutions which will be beneficial not only for Olympic athletes but cricket players as well. The mental wellness solutions also stand a chance to offer their services to grassroots levels of sports for players competing in national levels or state levels, this will aid young players to tackle anxiety and stress at an early stage and perform better in the future.