I spent a weekend in the wonderful company of a group of teachers interested in working with athletes. Walking them through my approach to the subject helped me crystallize my own thoughts, which once again come down to this:
Yoga for athletes is not necessarily athletic yoga. Yoga should complement training, not simply pile on more stress. When sport intensity and the intensity of yoga practice are in inverse proportion, yoga can buoy the athlete by improving strength, flexibility, balance, and focus.
We discussed what to teach (teach what will benefit the students in the room), how to teach it (in a way that comes from personal experience and authority), business, and pedagogy. We practiced poses that target core and hip strength, as well as hip flexibility, and we enjoyed some gentle inversions and supported backbends that help balance the demands of sport training. Then we put the theory into practice, as I brought a dozen student teachers with me to work with the UNC football team. This was a smash success: the teachers enjoyed seeing the variety of bodies and abilities, while the players loved having so many hands to offer adjustments, and so many models demonstrating the poses. I snapped a picture of the teachers as we left the stadium.
I’ll be repeating this workshop in Carrboro next year, and I plan to take it on the road as well, with stops in NYC and Southern California in 2010. If you’re interested in studying the topic of teaching yoga to athletes with me, please sign up for my e-mail newsletter or contact me directly, and I’ll keep you in the loop.