Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett is a self-proclaimed “down dog man.” The notoriously intense NBA player began incorporating yoga into his training plan during his tenure with the Boston Celtics as a way to focus his chaotic energy while enhancing his physical training. For athletes putting in hours of training, Garnett’s approach may be something to mimic.
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga brings a multitude of established physical and mental benefits, including increased flexibility and range of motion, ability to focus, decreased stress, increased strength (particularly in small muscle group movements), and improved mental clarity. Endurance athletes engage in repetitive movements for significant durations, typically in a singular plain of motion. You may sit on your bike for 3-4 hours continuously pedaling, or run for over 2 hours in the same direction (unless you qualified for Boston going backwards). Bodies are highly adaptable and become used to specific movement patterns. Yoga’s varied asanas, or poses, encourage the body to move in ways outside of your typical training, creating a holistic, complimentary routine.
The mental calmness of yoga is a divergence from the intense, high-stress demands of training, as expressed by Garnett. There are no tempo times, no threshold sets, and no intervals to worry about in yoga. This is initially a difficult departure for many competitive athletes, but a necessary mental reprieve.
A Sea of Down Dogs
The popularization of yoga has increased accessibility and brought multiple styles of yoga to those looking to start a yoga practice. Every workout has its own intensity and yoga is no exception. Classes range from restorative to strenuous, and every facet in between. For most athletes, yoga does not need to be a 7th workout added to your week. A vigorous yoga class added to a full training schedule may produce overtraining. Stick to restorative classes that focus on alignment and increasing range of motion rather than producing buckets of sweat or exceptional arm balances. Despite strong physical fitness, start with beginner or all-level classes and master the basic asanas before moving on. Your body will thank you, and you just might become a “down dog man.”
Annie Bertucio is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Trainer and yoga teacher at Upper Echelon Fitness and Rehabilitation. Annie’s teaching stems from the Iyengar yoga tradition, which focuses on proper posture and alignment. Her classes can be found on our current class schedule.
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