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Detroit Lions Show Courage in Yoga Practice, Realize It Isn’t ‘Girly’

in Yoga in Sports
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Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson demonstrating Hanumanasana.

And then there are days we cheer for football players practicing yoga! Sure it’s not new news anymore, per se (heck, it seems there are more football players doing yoga now than not — which is also not true…yet), but it is good news! While the whole “yoga is for girls” line is played out like bro-tastic beer commercials during a Sunday game, it’s still a pleasure to read about some of the toughest personas in the spotlight of dude-ness sharing their thoughts on a practice that has been (erroneously) categorized as something only ladies and wussies do. Sigh.

This week’s admissions come from the Detroit Lions, whose perception of yoga was quickly reversed when they tried it and realized how tough it really is.

“I knew there was a good chance that I wasn’t going to be able to do everything in there, but I had no idea how tough it was,” wide receiver Nate Burleson told CBS Detroit. “Other athletes would say, hey, it’s tough. But it was a lot tougher than I expected.”

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson aka Megatron has made yoga a regular part of his pregame routine, but mixes it up based on what his body needs that day. When asked about his preferences he answered: ”Whatever I’m feelin’. If I need to work on my hamstrings, if I need a full body deal or work on the hips, whatever needs work.”

And he’s seen the benefits: “I’ve seen definitely a positive impact from just being loose in my hips, hamstrings,” Johnson said. “I know it’s something that worked for me. I’ve just been doing it ever since.”

As for the rest of the Lions, they were skeptical at first, but once they saw other guys reaping the benefits, they couldn’t resist. For center Dominic Raiola, yoga helped him become more flexible and nimble. For cornerbacks Rashean Mathis, an 11-year veteran, and Darius Slay yoga helped make their stride longer on the field.

The standard fitness regimen of hitting the gym for heavy lifting to build bulky muscles eventually takes its toll, Burleson explains, especially in the tight body department. Sure the muscles look nice, but if you can’t move them…

“Lifting just makes you tight,” Burleson said. “You basically tear and re-tear your muscles. That’s how we build muscles, so if we’re continually doing that, all your muscles are going to do is get tighter and tighter as it heals up. With doing yoga and pilates and whatever else you need to do, it helps out.”

Loosening up muscles also helps prevent injuries, which, when you’re talking about football, can get pretty brutal and many times career ending.

“What most guys are doing now, they’re using it as a preventative measure, so it’s almost like ‘prehab’ in a sense, and you’re able to get your body more flexible, and your ligaments and tendons, all that stuff can give a little bit more when you have it already stretched out and worked out,” Burleson said.

And you can still be a man! Now isn’t that the amazingness of yoga right there.

[Via CBS Detroit]

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1 comment… add one

  • This is good to hear. I’m hopeful more and more pro athletes will come to realize the benefits of yoga practice and influence a wider audience. It sure would benefit everyone.

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