Practicing yoga gives football players an advantage in power, balance, flexibility and focus

By Courtney Conover | Posted 8/3/2015

Let’s start by debunking a few myths and clarifying what yoga isn’t.

  • It’s a religion. Yoga has no gods to worship or services to attend, no institutional structure or leaders, no statement of religious beliefs, and there is no profession of faith. Yoga, by definition, means to “yoke” or to unite the body and mind in harmony. Yoga, as a practice, seeks to correlate all aspects of living as it relates to those around us. This union is accomplished through physical postures, relaxation, and meditation.
  • You have to be flexible to do yoga. Nine times out of 10 when I tell someone that I teach yoga, the response is, “Cool! But I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.” Here’s the thing: The more inflexible you are the more yoga can benefit you. My trademark reply is this: “You’re breathing, aren’t you? Then you can do yoga.”
  • Yoga is expensive. Sure, there are classes and retreats that can cost more than a monthly mortgage, but attending said practices is not necessary to practice yoga. Not only do many studios offer free community classes, the internet is chock full of yoga DVDs – new and used – for less than $10. (My favorite is Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Energy by the way.) But I’ve found that my favorite way to practice is in the confines of my own home – in my raggedy old sweatpants and tank top. Which leads me to the next myth.
  • You need “things” in order to practice yoga. Here’s what you need: A mat. That’s basically it. And even that is optional depending on your flooring. While props can come in handy – blocks, bolsters, straps, etc. – they are not mandatory.

And here’s one more myth:

  • Yoga is for women. In particular, skinny ones wearing designer yoga pants.

That’s malarkey. Yoga is for thin and overweight people; short and tall people; young and old people; women and men. In other words, yoga is – quite literally – for everybody and body type.

Including NFL players.

According to, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles have offered yoga classes for their players for years through renowned international yoga instructor Baron Baptiste – who has produced some pretty awesome yoga videos. (You can find my favorite one here.) Baptiste actually once served as a Philadelphia Eagles coaching assistant.

The Tennessee Titans finish their two-a-day workouts in camp with a 90 minute yoga session. In recent years, the Cincinnati Bengals have made yoga a part of their offseason training program.

A regular yoga practice can improve functional strength, balance, power, flexibility and focus, so it only stands to reason that several professional football players have made it a staple of their training regimen.  

“Anything that can help you stay on the field, I’m doing it,” former Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola told CBS. “I’m interested and listening.”

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson agrees.

“Whatever I’m feeling, if I need to work on my hamstrings, if I need a full-body deal or if I just need to work on my hips, whatever needs work,” Johnson has said. “I’ve definitely seen a positive impact from just being loose in my hips, hamstrings. I know it’s something that worked for me. I’ve just been doing it ever since.”

My next blog post will detail four poses that are sure to improve balance, strength and flexibility – and I hope you’ll consider giving them a try.

If you’re still not sold on the benefits of hitting the mat, ask yourself why.

Is it your ego holding you back?

If yes, then ask yourself what sounds better: Buying into a stereotype or making the most of your performance on the field?

I think you already know the answer.

Courtney Conover is a mom of two and the wife of former Detroit Lions offensive lineman and current Heads Up Football Ambassador Scott Conover. She is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and a contributing writer to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. She blogs at (, over-shares on Facebook (, and you can find all kinds of photos from her yoga practice on her Instagram (