Yoga as Reward

Mediaroom

Yesterday, I taught one of the more interesting classes I’ve had the pleasure to lead lately. Somewhat surreally, it took place on the main floor of the Smith Center under the lights, but what made it special—in fact, what makes most standout moments special—is the intention behind it. I’ve been working with the UNC men’s basketball team for more than a year, always with an emphasis on balance and flexibility. Yesterday’s session, instead, had the express purpose of being fully restorative. No work, all relaxation. And what made it extra special is that it was a treat specifically offered by Coach Williams to the players.

In fact, it was a surprise yoga session with an elaborate ruse. When my assistant, Alexandra, and I arrived, we waited in the main office and then in the media room (hence, the photo) while the players laced up, stretched out, and began what they thought was a conditioning workout. As they ran the first set, we came on to the court, and it was very sweet to see it slowly dawn on them that there might be some savasana in their near future. Alexandra pointed out how wonderful it is that yoga is seen as a reward, and a reward worthy of a special unveiling—ta-da! It’s yoga!

As the author of a book on athletic recovery, The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery, I’m especially happy to emphasize rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, self-care, and focusing tools for all students. If you want to recreate your own athletic recovery session, follow along with this online class (and the Cornell women’s lacrosse team), or lie down on the floor and breathe. Take good, slow breaths in and out through your nose, letting the exhalations be full and complete. Get heavy. Be still. It’s not being lazy; it’s intentional attention to your body and breath.

Go, Heels!