Yoga for Football Players

Lake Oswego High School Lakers Add Yoga to their Football Practice

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For several weeks after their Wednesday morning regular practice this summer, the entire Lake Oswego High School football team took off their cleats and joined the coaches on the field for a one hour yoga class. Lead by certified yoga teacher Ali Matt of Twist Yoga in Lake Oswego, the classes focused on the speed and agility that players need on the gridiron.

"Our players work extremely hard in the weight room building strength and on the field improving their speed and quickness. This year, we decided to incorporate yoga because we wanted our athletes to increase their flexibility and help with injury prevention,” said LOHS Football Assistant Coach, Brian Bartsch.

Yoga is not new to high level athletes.  Professional and college teams have been incorporating yoga into their training for years – from LeBron James to Victor Cruz to LOHS grad Kevin Love. The Cavalier forward (and new NBA champion) added yoga to his training in 2011, saying it has improved his strength and stamina.  “There are so many aspects of yoga that can help you when you step out onto the hardwood,” he told Yahoo Sports.

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When you typically think of a “yogi,” a Lululemon-clad, flexible, carpool mom may come to mind. But this yoga stereotype no longer holds true.  More and more professional sports teams have been encouraging their players to practice yoga, not only to improve their performance on the field, but also to reduce injuries so they can stay on the field. The Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants have all added yoga instructors to their staffs. Now large, muscular, hulking men holding “downward dog” pose are a common sight in football training facilities across the country.

Coach Bartsch noted, “The kids have really embraced the yoga sessions! They not only see the physical benefits, but have also remarked about how calm and relaxed yoga makes them feel."

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Ali Matt, who has also taught yoga to the Portland Timbers and Portland Trailblazers, really understands how to translate the sometimes intimidating poses to athletes’ bodies. She knows how to move the body in ways that are safe and beneficial, and how to maximize the connection of mind and body. "It's a nice change of pace from our normal workouts. We've bonded over yoga and it has helped improve team chemistry,” said JP Miska, LOHS Senior Quarterback.

Ali lead the team through a series of yoga poses that open the ankles and feet to prevent plantar fasciitis, arch pain, turf toe and at the same time helps increase speed, agility, and balance. Special attention was also paid to teaching yoga poses that help avoid hip flexor injury; very common to athletes of this age. Regulating breathing is another focus of yoga, and a very beneficial tool for athletes in any high intensity sport.

The Lakers are always one of the most competitive football teams in the State. By incorporating yoga into their training, we’re hoping to cheer them on in the State Championship this year!

For more ideas own how to incorporate yoga into your sports training, check out our other blog post here