In match situations, yoga enables chess play with detachment and mental clarity

Monarchies are on their way out in most parts of the world, but here, the king is indeed lord and master of all he surveys; and in this day and age of nuke weapons, continues to depend heavily on the cavalry and elephants in his battles. Ever the chauvinist, he even gets his queen to do a lot of protective fighting for him... Three cheers for chess, a game invented to keep kings happy (and probably to get them to think occasionally?), and today, the most cerebral of sporting activities.Occupying as it does the pinnacle among mind-involving games (keeping way ahead of bridge, for example), chess breeds stress levels that would be laughable in a sport except for their stark reality. If mental involvement is so intense as to cause weight reduction in sports like cricket (Rahul Dravid is known to have become lighter by a couple of kilos during a single long innings), should it come as a surprise that Grandmasters find their suits hanging loose and limp over their shoulders as a chess marathon progresses?A comprehensive counter is exactly what the 'mind pro' needs to offset the obviously lopsided nature of the sport. Some players try tennis. Some swim (haven't we seen a photo of Fischer contemplating a floating chess board while neck deep in water?) The wise ones, of course, take to yoga - or should.Among other appealing aspects, what makes yoga unique is the variety it offers in the category of inversions. Each pose in the group has its own subtle, special effect on the mind and body - Sirshasana is basically a stimulant and generates extraordinary levels of energy flow; and there are headstand variations that add particular value to the wrists, abdomen, etc. Sarvangasana helps steer clear of diffident and negative tendencies; Halasana gives a great forward extension to the spine. Chair supported hala helps overcome stress-induced headaches. And the Setu Bandha arch is a greatly pacifying position.Standing poses and seated forward bends impart strength to the legs and make for postural elegance. Certain pranayamas are 'brain cell specials.' With regular practice of abdominal 'blast- breathing', for example, it is a pleasant discovery that, while the immediate effect is on the stomach, the ultimate impact is on the brain cells - hence justifying the term Kapala Bhati, indicating the skull and that which it encases! In match situations, yoga, especially pranayama-meditation, helps by enabling the player to operate with utmost detachment, so important for mental clarity. The mind is able to process a tremendous amount of information, sift through it and select the best positions and variations; and in a sport which is essentially a clash of minds, a yoga- trained and tuned mind is better equipped to out think and out manoeuvre a less sophisticated one.In the making of a chess player, intelligent moves are vitally important; and when it comes to the health gambit, the yoga move ranks among the very best for the chess pro.NANDANANDANAN

(The writer is a city-based yoga consultant)