Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Yoga for Bloodsport

When I first started practicing yoga I gushed to practically anyone who would listen about how “amazing” it was. I could hardly put into words the feeling I had as I floated out of the studio: strong, flexible, and calm, but also somehow taller, smarter, and better able to handle the slings and arrows of everyday life.

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In an article for Men’s Fitness magazine, Blake Griffin, a player for the L.A. Clippers, shows guys how to improve their basketball game with a little yoga.

First up, what Blake describes as half moon pose…using basketballs instead of blocks.  While the guy in the photo is actually demonstrating what looks like revolved half moon, and not half moon pose, kudos to him for doing a difficult pose while balancing on a round surface.

Next up, downward facing dog…

And finally, my personal favorite…extended side angle post…again, with a basketball.

No doubt Griffin learned these techniques from Kent Katich, who is on the payroll of the L.A. Clippers and has been described as “The Yoga Guru of the NBA”.  In an interview with ihoops.com, Katich explains his use of yoga in training basketball players:

With the exception of Abdul-Jabbar, yoga largely has been ignored in basketball due to its stereotype of being for women or the spiritual. Katich is changing that, and when asked how yoga can help basketball players, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Because of the running and the jumping, (basketball players) have a tendency to have tight glutes, and their IT bands–the muscle that runs on the sides from your knee up to your hip–that quad area can be tight,” Katich said. “Basketball players also have a tendency to roll their ankles a lot. Repetitive spraining of the ankle starts to harden the muscle that’s around the ankle.

“Getting these guys barefoot is an accomplishment, because they start having to work with these smaller muscles they never deal with because their ankles are always taped and they’re wearing shoes. You’re able to start to identify some of the deficiencies and imbalances that come with overload of certain workouts.

Katich explains that he has made modifications in his yoga program for basketball players:

Katich has made his yoga classes basketball-friendly, eliminating all the stereotypes that might drive players away. Instead of world music in the background, for example, Katich’s studio often has hip-hop artists like 2Pac or Kanye West playing. In addition, traditional yoga blocks used with certain poses are replaced by basketballs. Really, whatever it takes to make the modern athlete more comfortable in unfamiliar territory.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about yoga and competitive sports. Any athletes out there who can tell us how yoga has improved their sports performance? Does yoga improve your tennis game? Your marathon training? Football?  If so, tell us how! We’d love to hear from you!

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Emily Zoladz | The Grand Rapids Press

I’m always intrigued when newspapers run stories about big, burly, male athletes doing yoga. To me, this seems sort of obvious. Here’s an article from Michigan’s Grand Rapids Press about Aaron Downey, the strength and conditioning coach for the Grand Rapids Griffins (a professional hockey team), and his use of yoga to train his hockey players.

Mr. Downey said that, ten years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to convince the players to give yoga a try, despite the fact that he has personally done yoga for more than 11 years to prevent and heal hockey injuries.

He said that he uses yoga as a tool to get players to stretch:

You’re playing at a high level, high competition, it only makes sense to stretch . . . You can only stretch so much when you get into the locker room.

But he also suggests that yoga helps the hockey players to focus:

I’ve always looked for a bit of a mental edge to help myself because I was never really blessed with the most talent, especially when it comes to stick-handling and handling the puck . . . For me, to play at a high level, I had to be in great shape and I had to have repeat stamina over and over again . . . I was always a student, learning how to get better, physically and mentally, and one of those things is what we’re doing with yoga.

Game on!

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