The Rise of Yoga in Sports

More and more we are hearing about the benefits and rising popularity of athletes practicing yoga to maintain/improve performance and prolong their careers. The article below is just another example!

 

Beyond Downward Dog: The Rise of Yoga in the NBA and Other Pro Sports

Source: “Beyond Downward Dog: The Rise of Yoga in the NBA and Other Pro Sports” by Sarah Toland 7/3/14, Sports Illustrated online: http://www.si.com/edge/2014/06/27/rise-yoga-nba-and-other-pro-sports.

Joe Johnson is a seven-time NBA All-Star, arguably the best player right now on the Brooklyn Nets, and the fourth highest-paid athlete in the league last season. So it’s a tipoff that things are changing in the game when the 32-year-old shooting guard says the most crucial workout he does is not lifting, sprinting, or shooting, but yoga. “It’s better than weight training or anything of that sort,” says Johnson, who averaged 39.2 minutes and 21.2 points in the playoffs this season. “It’s therapy for my muscles, and my muscles need that more than anything.”

Johnson is not alone in his appreciation and practice of the ancient Hindu discipline. Over the past decade, more and more NBA players—and pro athletes from all sports—have taken up yoga and, more tellingly, discussed openly how important the practice is to their game. Most notable among NBA yogis is LeBron James, who recently credited an early-morning class for his ability to beat cramps in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Spurs. The league’s all-time minutes leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is also outspoken about his zeal for yoga, saying it was a big reason he was able to play as long and successfully as he did. In addition, Kevin Love, Dwayne Wade, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Garnett are all open about their yoga practice and have frequently spoken about its benefits for basketball.

“It is a workout, no matter what people say,” asserts Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers’ 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward. “For me, the mental part is just as big as the physical part. It kind of lets my mind be at ease and takes my mind off of whatever is going on.”

Griffin, who, at 25, is one of the league’s younger disciples, says he has been practicing yoga ever since signing with the Clippers in 2009, when he was drafted the No. 1 overall pick. Once he got to L.A., Griffin says, he met Kent Katich, the Clippers’ full-time yoga instructor—the only one in the league. “When I got to L.A., I started working with Kent,” Griffin says. “I had always taken a lot of interest in stretching, but I immediately realized how beneficial yoga was [with Katich].”

“Yoga is about body awareness, body mindfulness,” says Katich, who is known throughout the NBA as the “yoga guy.” “It’s about knowing your limitations and knowing your strengths. It’s getting [players] acquainted with details [of] what their restrictions are. Being put through these positions in a systematic way, they’re able to pay attention, so they don’t just go through the motions until something goes wrong.”

Perhaps the biggest indicator of yoga’s increasing popularity is that young draft prospects such as Jabari Parker, who works with Katich, are regularly practicing the pursuit. “I think it’s huge for guys to start young and realize the benefits,” says Griffin. “When you take care of your body through yoga, it extends years on your career. I do think [yoga] will become more and more the norm in the NBA.”

Regardless of position, every player stands to gain something from practicing yoga regularly, Lawrence says. “It’s more than just flexibility work—yoga also helps balance the body. Because if there’s an imbalance in the body and [players are] working out really hard and training and lifting and running, they’re just going to be training that imbalance. So it’s really important I help them get balanced. And it’s really important for them to get in touch with their bodies, because it’s amazing how many of these guys aren’t in touch with their bodies.”

To enjoy the full article, visit Sports Illustrated Online.

 

 

 

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