Make some space and roll out the heavy duty yoga mats – there is a new breed of yogi on the scene! In Los Angeles at least, more professional athletes and team sportsmen, such as National Football League (NFL) players are hitting their yoga mats to prove real men can down dog.
Professional NFL football players put their bodies through extreme stress in a sport that demands coordination, speed, quick reactions and intense stamina. Yoga has become an instrumental way for these athletes to better their condition, be it mental or physical, through strength, flexibility and breathing exercises. Even power and violent sports need to be played within oneself. Yoga helps the athletes become whole.
These extreme athletes benefit from a variety of yoga methods both during their off season training camps and through-out the year. Over training causes repetitive stress on the body and leads to injury. NFL players regularly battle with tightness in the hips, hamstrings and shoulders. Every session varies depending on the individuals needs. On a leg day, focus will be on releasing tightness in the hips with pigeon pose, stretching the hamstrings and hip flexors through a low lunge or reclined big toe pose with the support of props like straps, blocks and blankets. The next day focus is on core strength and co-ordination balancing in crow pose or Half moon.
(Image: Justin Pugh, #67 New York Giants).
Yoga will push these athletes to question their own strength, no matter how much they bench press, deadlift, or squat. You can squat 500 pounds, great, but can you hold a position for 90 seconds, using every fibre of your body, your core and do it in a way where your mind is engaged at all times? Most often, I have found that these elite athletes are not equipped for it, but their hunger and competitive spirit drives them to come back and perfect the exercises until they can master them. Unbeknown to them at first, the positive results start to also show on the field and not just on the mat.
Theres no arguing NFL football is a brutal sport. These guys hit hard and over time injuries are part of the job. Yin Yoga balances out the stress of aggressive games and training by deeply relaxing and renewing the connective tissue of the body. This aids to prevent and repair injuries, alleviate soreness and recovery time. Flexibility increases range of motion making athletes even faster, more agile and less likely to become injured thus Improving overall performance.
Meditation is a powerful tool to integrate into an athlete’s yoga practice. Learning to stay present, managing stressful situations with breath and quietening the mind are all beneficial techniques when it comes to the pressure of Game Day. Pro athletes get in the zone, a mental state where they perform at their best. Yoga helps athletes to better achieve and capture the concentration needed to reach that zone. The Seattle Seahawks attributed meditation along with training, talent and hard work after winning the Superbowl.
(Image: Justin Pugh, #67 New York Giants)
Muhammad Ali said “a man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life”. Yoga can be an added tool to your daily life. It has become one to all the athletes who have come to me and now play before your very eyes on Sundays this season. No matter your sport, your hobby, your work, Yoga has a place in your life.