Professional Athletes & Olympians Practice Yoga
* Editor's Note: This article was updated in July 2017 by the Athletic-Minded Traveler Staff.
Professional athletes & Olympians use yoga to up their sport performance. Former Padres utility man Eric Young sweats it out doing Bikram Yoga. From what we understand he once relied on Bikram yoga for his off-season conditioning. What's also interesting is that Padres trainer, Todd Hutcheson, has integrated yoga into the Padres' training regimen over the years. Former left fielder and first baseman, Ryan Klesko touted the benefits of yoga in several interviews.
So what's the deal? Easy. Yoga promotes flexibility, strength and mental discipline. Loose, pliable muscles (and joints) are less prone to injury and recover more quickly. While many MLB players are newbies to the experience, some, like former pro shortstop, Khalil Greene, have practiced before. The Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers says Hot Yoga helps with flexibility and mental discipline. In this article he says, "My sleep improved--my sleep patterns, every night. My energy improved..."
So why not just do some stretching? Because yoga offers variety and challenge. Some forms (like Bikram) are quite strenuous--the opposite of boring. Padres players aren't the only professional athletes practicing yoga. Pro golfer David Duval, soccer veteran Ryan Giggs, football stars Eddie George and Shannon Sharp, past and current NBA powerhouses (Kevin Garnett, Emeka Okafor, Bruce Bowen), racecar driver Danica Patrick, and other sport champs all use yoga.
Another yogi, Tony Parrish (Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys), used yoga to get his mojo back after breaking his left ankle and fibula. Check out this picutre! This is a Bikram pose, by the way. Taking the practice one step further is Heisman winner and running back Ricky Williams. Williams, who played for the Canadian Football League, and most recently the Balitimore Ravens, also taught yoga at Toronto's Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center. He used to squeeze in classes before practice! In interviews, Ricky cited the teaching opportunity as a key reason for joining the Argonauts.
And the list seems to go on. Washington Redskins' Jason Hatcher at 33 found Bikram Yoga and used it as a way to loosen sore muscles after a game. The NFL Pro practices 3-5 time a week and uses the yoga to maintain flexibility in his knees. It's about recovery for this footballer. We love the way he puts it!
“I do the hot yoga after the game to get all the toxins out of my body that I put in to be able to play the game all day — energy drinks and stuff like that to get energy. . . . The yoga speeds things up,” Hatcher explained. “The yoga, it tones you. It elongates you. As we get older and you get tight, throughout the week, you feel heavy and like you’re walking through mud, but [with yoga], you just feel light." -- Washington Redskins' Jason Hatcher commenting about his Bikram Yoga practice to the Washington Post, Novemebr, 2015.
Keith Mitchell, another former NFL pro, began his transition to "yogi" after a career-ending spinal injury. He was paralyzed for SIX months! Guess where he is now? Teaching yoga in Los Angeles AND running the nonprofit Light It Up Foundation, which aids former athletes and veterans through yoga and meditation. Just click through to the above link to see what this man can do.
And some entire teams are known to use yoga, often because they an enlightened trainer or coach promotes it. Take the Denver Broncos, many 2016's Super Bowl Champs used yoga to prevent injuries, "get the soreness out", and improve overall performance. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another example of a football team using yoga to stretch muscles, prevent future injuries and improve flexibility. Players say it helps on the gridiron. The Bucs in 2017 were known to practice yoga in a heated (98F) room with hip hop music playing!
Add Floyd Mayweather to the list. We read that to prepare for his fight against Conor McGregor -- the UFC icon -- in 2017, he practiced Bikram yoga. He says that they yoga helps him push himself and improve his performance.
Olypmians too are yoga smart. Chandra Crawford (Canadian Cross-Country Team) says her Yin & Flow yoga practice keeps her nerves at bay and helps her focus. US Freestyle skiier Shannon Deanne Bahrke likes a good power yoga class to improve strength. And with the U.S. national Yoga Asana Championships getting more press every year, Rajashree Choudhury's (wife of Bikram Choudhury) dream of seeing Yoga as an Olympic event just may become a reality!
Other Olympians practicing yoga to improve their performance: cyclist Evelyn Stevens, swimmer Rebecca Soni, and world record holder in the 200 Individual Medley, Ariana Kukors, began her Bikram practice while in High School. As our readers know, many of our staff practice and promote Bikram Yoga as for everyone...If you want to give it a try, we have tips for first-timers.