http://blog.yogaformen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/CORNER-TAB-1.jpg“At some point, I know that I told each of you that when someone out there hears about how you’ve incorporated yoga into your training, they’re gonna want to talk to you about it.”
“And here we are.”
I was addressing Jason Fox, Jelani Jenkins, Jamar Taylor and Olivier Vernon, all players for the Miami Dolphins of the NFL, and all current clients of mine. We were preparing to film a segment on yoga for NFL Films and the show NFL Rush. I was to guide them through a practice, and then Shannon Furman, the producer of the segment and yogini herself, was going to interview everyone and maybe ask the guys to demonstrate their favorite postures.
“Just do your practice,” I instructed. “If you really want to help those who are going to watch this, you won’t perform for the cameras. You’ll use all of those distractions to simply go deeper inside, and that will show.”
“At some point, I told all of you that you were helping the world around you by simply practicing yoga; that by incorporating yoga into your lives, you were destroying stigmas associated with it only being for women or not being manly in some way.”
“So, I can’t thank you guys enough.”
And then we went in to practice.
Four professional football players, four very masculine, elite athletes that get paid to play a very violent sport, rolled out their XL mats and practiced yoga, and it was an honor to guide them through for the show. After the practice, the guys demonstrated a few postures and shared how yoga has helped them both on and off the field, and I was interviewed as well. A nice chat with the guys and the crew, and everyone was off and running to their next appointments. You could tell it was a good time and that everyone really enjoyed the experience.
For me, it was cosmic.
I don’t teach yoga to athletes to be recognized as that guy who works with pros, or to make them better athletes (even if that’s why they come to see me). I teach yoga to athletes in an effort to somehow put a dent in the violence we are experiencing in this world. I have been involved with and have studied all aspects of human performance my entire life from the science to the business, athletics to aesthetics, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, energetic and vibrational; you name it, I’ve gone there. It just so happens that my past as an athlete and history in this field all lends itself to working with athletes and bridging that gap between the sports performance community and yoga.
Maybe one young man watching the show will see Olivier Vernon eat quarterbacks on Sunday and yet be calm and cool off the field on Monday.
My passion is about the practice. And as much as I love the performance side, my goal has always been that these guys would use their platform as professional athletes to share their practices and demolish the stigmas associated with yoga. That maybe one young man watching the show will see Olivier Vernon eat quarterbacks on Sunday and yet be calm and cool off the field on Monday. That maybe a yoga practice somehow reaches that kid on the fence, or that soldier who needs it so badly, and saves a life, like it did for me.
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One of the earliest revelations I had in my yoga practice was that I wish I’d had this as part of my training as a youth. Injuries robbed me of so much when I was young, and were the nail in the coffin for me and my athletic career in college. The mental and emotional benefits and subsequent applications to the games I loved to play were obvious. Yoga is that bridge of using movement; using the body to reach higher states of consciousness, or “the zone.” It saved my life, and also made me a better person. It helped me deal with unimaginable anger when my then wife was murdered in 2009 as I wrote about in an earlier blog here
Does yoga make you a better athlete? Yes. By making you a better person.
Does yoga make you a better athlete? Yes. By making you a better person. Who doesn’t make better decisions when they are calm, focused and confident? It’s all about being firmly grounded and present, no matter what we’re doing, whether we’re dealing with PTSD flashbacks or the anxiety of a hostile crowd and fear of failure, the work through that anxiety or fear is the same. It’s yoga. It’s pranayama. It’s meditation.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the guys participating in the shoot and for Shannon Furman for putting it all together. I never thought that being a big, inflexible former athlete with a monster ego and a beat up body would ever be anything to be thankful for, but the journey out of that former existence is what led me here. And oddly enough, the space that we shot in is the same building I was working in over 5 years ago when my then wife was murdered. I could actually see where I was standing when the detective called me from Atlanta. This really was full circle in the most cosmic of senses for me. Shani literally forced me to start practicing yoga in what was another lifetime. 5 years after her death, we’re using that gift to help others in a big way, and the best way that I possibly can.
As I write this, I don’t even know if I actually made the final cut and appear in the piece, but to be completely honest, it doesn’t matter.
It’s not now, nor has it ever been about me. Someone shared yoga with me, and I shared it with others who do the same. That’s all.
It’s about the practice.
*This piece will air on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 9:30 p.m. on NickToons (on the show NFL Rush). Check your local listings.
Here's a brief commercial for the show
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