When you picture a yogi, imagines of thin, young, flexible people probably enter your mind. There is definitely a stereotyped image of a yogi, although in reality people of all shapes, sizes, and ages practice yoga regularly. That group also includes professional football players.
Football players don’t fit into the stereotypical image of a yogi. They’re large with sculpted muscles spent from hours of lifting and conditioning. When people picture the types of exercise football players go through they think running, weight training, and hitting. They definitely don’t think deep breathing, stretching, and flowing between yoga poses.
More and more football players are turning to yoga though. And what these professional athletes can do will probably surprise most people. Who could imagine a 6-foot 240-pound man could perfectly bend over without bending their knees.
In recent years the presence of yoga has grown in the NFL. The faced-paced, hard-hitting sport of football is perfectly balanced, both mentally and physically, by the calming practice of yoga. Although many NFL teams have yet to adopt yoga as part of their team regime, individual players practice it.
Teams like the Chargers, Cleveland Browns, and Dallas Cowboys make yoga a team activity. The New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, and Chicago Bears offer it to players on recovery days.
LA Chargers Director of Football/Medical Services, James Collins, who has been an athletic trainer for 31 years said, “Obviously (yoga) helps with flexibility, what we call join integrity, discipline, focus, and balance. It has a lot of different entities to it. And one thing about professional football players is that if you explain something to them and give them the science and reasoning behind it, you can get them to buy into it.”
Yoga helps players improve balance, flexibility, and it hugely important in helping them recover from injuries. Players that regularly practice yoga have been known to recover faster. There is the mental benefit too. In a game where players have to be mentally tough to withstand constant physical contact, the mental strength yoga provides is valuable.
All of the benefits are there, now more players and NFL teams just have to take the leap to adopt it as part of their fitness routine.