From slam dunks to downward dog: sports teams enjoy yoga lessons

by | May 1, 2017 | in Sports | No Comments

After a long week of grueling lacrosse games and practice, emerging stiff and bruised, the lacrosse team seeks healing in the dance studio for an activity one might not expect: yoga.

The men’s basketball, soccer and lacrosse teams have been working with yoga instructor Shanna Dew this season. Basketball has worked with her for two seasons.

“I know [that] Terry London, who’s a basketball coach, looked me up,” Dew said.piedmont_2

Dew, who has a masters degree in counseling psychology, believes she brought both a yoga instructor and counselor presence to the teams.

“I fit what they were looking for, so I came in under that guise [as both an instructor and counselor],” Dew said.

Dew said that the teams she has worked with have received the sessions well, and that participation has been good. However, there have also been some who thought that the sessions were a waste of time.

“Some guys came in super excited, and other times people are really skeptical,” Dew said.

Soccer player and senior Kyle Mortimer mainly agreed with Dew’s assessment.

“When Todd [the coach] announced it, people laughed, but people were super down, and most people came and enjoyed it,” Mortimer said. “No one was against it. Almost everybody liked it.”

Part of the reason for this high approval is due to the openness and flexibility of the sessions.

“I encourage kids to do what they need to do,” Dew said. “If apprehension is coming from a place of not understanding what’s going on, as a teacher it is my job to provide enough information to understand what is going on.”

But once the athletes commit to the yoga sessions, then they begin to see the benefits, lacrosse player and senior Jeff Asa-Hauser said.

“It’s been very relaxing,” Asa-Hauser said. “After a long lacrosse week of physical work, it’s nice to go in there and relax your body, relax your mind, stretch, and prevent injuries.”

Mortimer said that he felt both physical and mental benefits, saying that it helped him relax.

“The rest of the day, I’d feel really good physically: looser, more chill,” Mortimer said. “It was mostly just mentally relaxing and physically relaxing.”

Asa-Hauser also said that the yoga provides a fresh-start mentality for the team.

“We all come in there off a Friday game or Friday practice and we get to wipe out the week and start over fresh,” Asa-Hauser said. “[We erase] whatever good or bad happened during the week and start with a clean slate.”

Dew said that this mentality is a key benefit of yoga.

“An athlete knows the concept of losing track of time,” Dew said. “Experiencing the soul sense of the body, and when someone missed a goal or a basket, how to keep moving on.”

However, beyond this, yoga also helps build focus and concentration, Dew said. Dew said that her experience in yoga has had a healing effect on her.

“I have been practicing yoga for about nine to ten years, to me, yoga is a big healing process, when people don’t have the words to work through what’s going on in their lives, yoga opens the mental parts of ourselves that we can close off,” Dew said. “It sustained me through my anxiety. It was an outlet, it taught me how to relax.”

However, beyond her own experience as a non-athlete, Dew believes that yoga is perfect for athletes.

“Athletes are primed for yoga,” Dew said. “Athleticism is just another form of intelligence. Knowing how to move your body through space or throw a ball through a hoop requires huge mental focus. Athletes have to have that mind-to-body connection.”

In addition, the sessions served as a out-of-practice bonding experience as well, Mortimer and Asa-Hauser both said.

“It’s as much a team bonding experience as anything else,” Asa-Hauser said. “Everyone is in there together, having fun and it’s another way to be a part of a team and continue the team aspect off the field.”