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I’m just at the start of my health and fitness journey. There are a number of things holding me back, but I’m breaking through them one by one. One big mental block for me was this idea that yoga is somehow a less legitimate form of exercise than going to the gym or taking a run.
It Was Just What I Needed
Breaking down my preconceptions of what yoga is began when I was looking for fitness role models to inspire me. The more famous athletes I researched, the more I saw yoga popping up. So, one day I borrowed my wife’s yoga mat, put on a YouTube video and gave it a try.
And then I was kicking myself for not trying yoga before. When I started my journey, I quickly realized that I couldn’t just pick up a sport or start running. A sedentary lifestyle had done some damage to my back and joints, so I needed low-impact options to help me build muscle strength and stabilize my back.
So if you know anything about yoga, you’re probably shouting at your screen that it’s exactly what I need. Yup. Now I know.
Bridge the Gap Between Life’s Imbalances
The first time I tried yoga, I realized exactly what it does for people, and what it could do for me. Yoga is not an instant cure-all, but it’s a bridge to improve every aspect of my life, if I’m willing to brave it and put in the work. It combines so many stress relievers into one activity: meditation, exercise, and a brief escape.
In this article, I share my thought process, and the 5 formidable athletes who convinced me that yoga isn’t fluff. It’s hardcore, and people who use it to train are at the top of their game.
5 Formidable Athletes Who Train with Yoga
Christa Angelo, Surf Training
Christa Angelo is a professional yoga instructor and surfer. She takes her surfing seriously and uses yoga to handle a common struggle of many surfers: If you don’t live close to the water, or can only surf seasonally, how do you stay in shape and improve your game while you’re not surfing? Her answer is yoga.
She wrote a great post for Wetsuit Wearhouse about her surfing achievements and how yoga contributes to her lifestyle.
Kent Katich, The Los Angeles Clippers’ Yoga Coach
My journey to the realization that yoga could be awesome began with Kent Katich. Here’s a major NBA team, the LA Clippers no less, getting Yoga instruction. He made history by being the first full-time yoga instructor working with an NBA team.
It’s difficult to measure the exact results of these athletes who train with yoga, but many of them swear by its positive effects on their youth and career longevity. When I read about him, and about how the players swear by their yoga practice, I couldn’t help but dig deeper.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Yoga for Mind and Health
For me, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of those sportsmen who people should aspire to. His grace and intelligence off the court are just as striking as his achievements on it. He clearly had a knack for keeping in tip-top physical shape, but for Kareem, yoga was something different.
Abdul-Jabbar credits his health, and his ability to play for as long as he did, to yoga. This was another turning point for me. I realized that you don’t necessarily pick and choose with yoga. You can have a single goal in mind, but to get the most out of it, you need to be purposeful with both your body and mind.
Yoga isn’t just stretching, or just goal-setting, or just meditative
Ray Lewis, Tries Everything, Sticks with Yoga
Ray Lewis is commonly known for trying just about anything to keep on top of his game during the off-season. But through it all, he’s trained with yoga for years. As much as his routines change, trying a new martial art here or some boxing there, he always sticks with yoga.
What’s most inspiring about Lewis is how he frames yoga. He doesn’t do it just for the game or just for his job; he sticks with it because yoga is best for his lifestyle.
Lebron James, Community Outreach
I couldn’t end this article without a video of Lebron James teaching kids to do yoga. This embodies an important and often overlooked part of lifestyle balance that we’re taught to practice in yoga.
Again, it’s not about just your body, mind, or soul. Right here, we have Lebron really committing to having a good soul, and giving back to his community. I love that Lebron has taken this, as well as yoga, into his heart.
Inspiring the World with Yoga
When it comes to athletes who train with yoga, these 5 mentioned are truly an inspiration. I volunteer when I can, and I hope to continue in a spirit of community service as I progress toward at least some of physical and mental balance that these athletes demonstrate.
So, there it is. A little list of inspiration that changed my mind about Yoga. It took quite a while — I’m a vicious cynic — but changing one’s mind can be just as difficult as changing one’s body.
When I stumbled upon Michael’s website, Pizza Beer Yoga, I just had to post about my own burgeoning experience with yoga. I’m grateful to join the conversation, and I’m pretty sure his book, Transformative Nutrition, can help.