Pretty Rockin’ Astavakrasana, Sir.
Brian Jennings is a 36 year-old football player for the San Francisco 49ers. A 12 year NFL veteran, he’s everything you would expect – big, beefy, a certified yoga instructor…
Ok, maybe he’s not exactly the norm. But no doubt fellow ballers would benefit from listening to his practical beliefs on his practices. In addition to yoga, Jennings also includes massages, chiropractic care, Chinese herbs and acupuncture in what he calls his “wellness lifestyle.”
Jennings says, “I do a lot of things that are considered alternative. It’s probably unusual being in a self-destructive business.”
It may be worth noting that he is a long-snapper, a specialist position that takes fewer hits and spends less time on the field per game. Still, how many 36-year-old guys do you know that can hop out of protective padding and into a handstand scorpion?
Practicing yoga has made him lose weight though, so during the football season Jennings hangs up his mat in order to keep his bulk, but it’s not without some serious withdrawal.
“It feels good,” Jennings said. “It clears the meridians [the paths through which the life energy known as "qi" flows, in traditional Chinese medicine] and energy systems. During the season, those get blocked and sometimes you aren’t moving as fast. I need to get my body back in balance.”
Following the season and a brief period of rest, he is back on the mat in his native Arizona about three or four times per week. Echoing true yogi wisdom, he says he sees the benefits in every aspect of his life.
“I believe that if your body is working right, your mind is working right,” he said. “It helps me playing football and it helps me handle situations with my wife and kids, once your body starts to release, you notice profound changes.”
Jennings became certified to teach in 2008, and says he will occasionally sub for the instructors he enjoys. His personal practice of choice is power yoga, a fast-moving sequence of poses set to music of the instructor’s choice in a room set at between 90 and 95 degrees. He describes it as “traditional Ashtanga framework, but in a more fun environment,” which some may consider nontraditional, but Brian brushes that off his shoulder…pads.
“The trick is to get people to attend and do yoga poses. If music helps, play music. If people need the room to be comfortable, make it comfortable. Whatever it takes to get people on the mat. How do we capture people off treadmills and long-distance runners? How do we capture people who don’t get any exercise, get them off their couches and out of their offices? To me, the most important thing is getting people to do yoga poses.”
Brian Jennings is an ambassador of wellness and self care in an industry of concussions and brutal physical abuse in the spirit of the game. A contradiction? Maybe. But a footballer who does yoga and talks about meridians and life energy? Well that will grab our attention any day, and might even make us watch the game. Here’s hoping more of his fellow NFLers will take a cue, and take his class!
(Maybe ESPN can start by posting this story on the main page, rather than just to the special womens’ site, hm?)
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