Eric Freeman

NBA players love yoga without growing ponytails

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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You know yoga, right? It's that thing mostly practiced by attractive women in their 20s or 30s and guys with ponytails. It cures the body and mind, and you can even do it with your dog or baby. Yes, I live in San Francisco and these are things that actually exist here.

But the stereotype of yoga doesn't necessarily hold much water these days. Lots of people do it, even professional basketball players. Just check out this article from Kyle Stack for SLAM:

That there is even one NBA team which has a yoga instructor on the payroll is fairly surprising. Yoga has a fundamental association with nature and soft music and showing one's sensitive side. That doesn't jive with an NBA environment that is filled with aggressiveness, even ruthlessness. "Soft" doesn't work; NBA players can read through someone trying to tap into their inner self.

"You can't talk about the sun and opening your heart," [Clippers instructor Kent] Katich said. "[The players] are going to shut you off, and they're going to laugh at you." [...]

In addition to practically any Clipper of the past eight seasons, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari have trained with Katich. In fact, Katich estimates he's put at least 25 percent of the players in the League through some type of yoga movement. Name a team, and he'll tick off three or four players he's trained.

Wow, who knew that so many NBA players loved to eat granola? But seriously, folks, the fact that Katich has been so successful with this approach speaks to the improved flexibility that yoga can bring to a player's game. Sure, he probably doesn't talk about centered katras and all that jazz during his sessions, but that's fine. Not every player is born with the natural flexibility of Monta Ellis(notes), and Katich is there to help.

Yoga is ultimately an activity built on graceful movements, something the NBA knows a bit about. This isn't as bizarre a match as you might initially think -- it's just an issue of packaging yoga to fit the lives of NBA players. Katich has achieved that, and players have not surprisingly taken to his classes. Yoga might not be for everyone, but it's a valuable tool that can help these athletes improve.

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