Mind, Body And Soul: 10 Athletes Who Do Yoga To Take Their Game To The Next Level
It’s no secret that yoga and meditation have serious benefits for your health, but especially for pro athletes competing a high level, it really pays dividends.
Super Bowl champion head coach Pete Carroll requires that all of his players take yoga classes during the season and even credits the zen practice for relaxing his players and keeping them focused on game day.
When players have the capacity to align their body and mind, you’re going to get results like we saw at Super Bowl XLVIII. The game is 90 percent mental and the Seahawks clearly had that advantage, only losing three games all year.
Meditating is just as important as any field practice or weight lifting session. Maintaining that centered state of mind while in the game and just allowing instincts take over shows us the true measure of greatness.
Not to mention, yoga helps with flexibility, which is useful in preventing injuries. Still, there’s only a handful of athletes who understand the real importance of implementing yoga in their workout regimen.
Victor Cruz, Wide Receiver for the New York Giants
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Victor Cruz shocked the NFL when he burst onto the scene in 2011 after going undrafted in 2010. During his three-year career with the Giants, he’s racked up 3,237 receiving yards, off 241 receptions with 23 touchdowns. Not bad for a guy passed on by every team upon coming out of UMass.
Cruz has been practicing yoga since joining the Giants. Team instructor Gwen Lawrence says Vic’s go-to is the hero pose, which helps create flexible ankles and aids in foot pain. Yoga is the perfect exercise for a wide receiver playing in the NFC East.
Kevin Garnett, Power Forward for the Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Garnett may be a scum bag on the court, but off the court, he likes to keep the peace and tranquility. What you probably didn’t know about the 37-year-old power forward for the Brooklyn Nets is that he’s been doing yoga since 1995.
KG was once quoted in the book “Real Men Do Yoga,” saying, “Yoga helps me calm down and helps me center my energy so I’m balanced instead of going out there and just spreading my energy all over the court. I’m zeroed in on the game and have my mind set on what I need to do.”
Blake Griffin, Power Forward for the Los Angeles Clippers
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ever wonder how the hell Blake Griffin gets up like that? He’ll be the first person to tell you that yoga helped him reach the next level. In an interview with iHoops.com, Blake raved about the practice and told us what it did for him.
“For me, flexibility is huge. Staying loose and healthy and staying limber–you can tell a difference when your muscles are tight or when you're stretched out and completely relaxed.”
Although, he’s also just a freak of nature.
Evan Longoria, Third Baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Despite having an embarrassingly similar name to a TV housewife, Evan Longoria has broken out in the MLB as one of the biggest stars. He got there by keeping himself calm, remaining loose and practicing yoga.
Longoria spoke to MLB.com about using the workout to help him prepare for games, saying, “To be strong in general doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be strong from a baseball standpoint. When you’re hitting, you want to be as stable as you can and use the three-dimensional aspect — the rotation in your core — to actually translate to power.”
Vernon Davis, Tight End for the San Francisco 49ers
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
At 30 years old, Vernon Davis is still one of the most athletic tight ends in the game. To battle the beating his body takes while taking shots down the middle of the field, Davis counters the pain by taking hot Bikram yoga.
In an interview with Muscle & Body Magazine, he said the workout keeps him “mentally fresh” and ready all season. Mixing in his exercise with a healthy dose of meditation and prayer, Vernon will continue to see success for as long as he’s in the game.
Kevin Love, Power Forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves
The rumored future Los Angeles Laker will have no problem adjusting to the fitness culture, as he’s been doing yoga since his college days at UCLA. He told Yahoo Sports that yoga made the difference for him when he did a vinyasa video for them back in 2011:
“There are so many aspects of yoga that can help you when you step out onto the hardwood.”
As one of the best rebounders and most effective post players in the game, Love benefits from the stamina built in the lower body and he stretches his body to help meet the physical demand of playing in the NBA.
Love works with Kent Katich, who has also brought yoga into the lives of other NBA players, such as Dirk Nowitzki and Baron Davis.
Dirk Nowitzki, Power Forward for the Dallas Mavericks
Mind And Sport
At 7’0″, Dirk Nowitzki has to do a lot to make sure his body stays fresh for Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks. For years, the German star has been doing yoga to help keep himself injury-free and ready for all 82 games of the season.
Training with renowned instructor Kent Katich, Dirk now has the benefit of putting his mind at ease during high-pressure situations like we’ve seen so many times in the past. His game reflects the lifestyle, too, playing smart and never with reckless abandon. He’ll be in the NBA until he’s 45 if he keeps this up!
Tom Brady, Quarterback for the New England Patriots
When you marry a supermodel like Gisele, this type of lifestyle just comes standard. However, Tom is one to do yoga more for the gossip, as his position doesn’t necessarily require him to be too agile.
What’s his favorite treat after a hot yoga sesh with the girls? Orange mocha frappuccino! Don’t believe me? Here’s Tom caught in the act!
LeBron James, MVP for the Miami Heat
Gary Bogdon/Getty Images
The King has never been one to hold himself back and not try something new, which is why he’s been doing yoga since his days in Cleveland with the Cavs. While some of his teammates teased him about it, he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in 2009:
“Yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind, and it’s a technique that has really helped me. I had some lower-back problems a few years ago and once I started to do the yoga, it has helped them go away for now.”
Now playing in South Beach for the Heat, LeBron has taken his yoga with him saying, “Does it work for everybody? I don't know. I'm not a guru about how to be in the best condition — don't let me sit here and tell you that. But it works for me.”
Russell Wilson, Captain of the Seattle Seahawks
ESPN The Magazine
Fresh off his Super Bowl XLVIII win in just his second year in the league, Russell Wilson is already hanging out with Jay Z and Beyoncé courtside at Nets games. But he didn’t get there just by having an awesome suit and Jheri curls.
Russ is the ultimate case study to exemplify the benefits of yoga for NFL players, as Pete Carroll has transformed him into one of the most lethal, smartest, dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. Russell was quoted in an ESPN, The Magazine, feature saying:
“We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.”
But left tackle Russell Okung said it best:
“Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice. It's about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn't matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can't do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”