- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

Florida Marlins pitcher Carl Pavano puts up with the guff he gets from his baseball teammates. He figures his yoga is worth it.
Stanford University starting center Rob Little, on the other hand, didn't get guff. Everyone on the basketball team has to do yoga.
Mr. Pavano and Mr. Little are among a growing number of athletes who have turned to the ancient Indian meditative technique's twists, stretches and poses. Yoga itself shuns competitiveness, but athletes say the activity improves their play.
"It helps your focus and concentration, and that goes hand in hand with pitching," said Mr. Pavano, who has been doing regular 90-minute sessions for two months. "It has helped my flexibility. I get lower back spasms, and it helps stretch out my hamstrings and my lower back, which is huge in pitching."
The balance and flexibility that yoga teaches can pay off in better rebounding, dunks and jump shots "every physical component of the game," said Stanford strength coach John Murray. Even though he is no master yogi, he has been teaching the team, sometimes with help from illustrations in books.
Besides the stretches, the basketball players also learn to find their inner yogi the calm state that yoga fosters. "These guys are not directly aware of it, but they feel comfortable," Mr. Murray said.
The same techniques that star athletes use also work for the non-athlete, said Sarabess Forster, a part-time yoga teacher at the University of Maryland. Her class, which carries a physical education course credit, includes varsity members as well as students who just wanted to try yoga, she said.
"It's the same no matter what their physical condition is," Miss Forster said. People who are not in good shape have to work harder when they start yoga, but do fine if they stick with it, she said.
Despite the interest that athletes have taken in yoga, the image of yoga is more of incense and silence than gym locker and crowd roar. Six-foot-5-inch, 250-pound pitchers and 6-foot-10-inch, 275-pound centers don't fit the picture.
Mr. Pavano hears about it from the other Marlins. "They make fun of me," he said. "That's what teammates are for to let you know if they think something you're doing is ridiculous. But you can't please everyone."
Even at Stanford, where yoga is a requirement, "at first, we were a bit skeptical," Mr. Little said.
Mr. Little, however, came to Stanford with yoga in his background. When he was at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, the team had done yoga.
"We thought it was funny," Mr. Little said. "We were in these really strange positions, and a little bit immature. But we knew it was helpful."
However, yoga has its training drawbacks, chiefly the time it requires. To go through a complete set of poses can take 90 minutes to two hours. Stanford uses it in preseason, with a session on Wednesdays to break up a week of weights.
Yoga doesn't solve everything. "The other day, we were taking batting practice, and I was hitting real bad, and [pitcher] Josh Beckett said, 'Obviously, your yoga isn't helping that,'" Mr. Pavano recalled.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide