Finish Strong
November 19, 2017

ATHLETES THAT DO YOGA

Tony&Allan

The stereotype that yoga is for women is a stereotype that hasn’t quite disappeared yet. But what most people may not know is that yoga was practiced primarily by young adolescent boys. Though your yoga class may be dominated by women, the number of men who do yoga is slowly rising. In the US, professional athletes and teams have yoga in their program as part of their training regimen. Hopefully, we can adapt that in our sports programs here in the Philippines.

I caught up with two male athletes, a former professional basketball player and a triathlete, who have discovered the power of yoga and how it has helped them physically and mentally. Read on to see how yoga continues to transform their lives.

 

TONY DELA CRUZ

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Tony is currently an assistant coach for the PBA team Alaska Aces, part owner of Upgrade U, a workshop consultancy company which performs leadership workshops directed at all athletes for better mental, physical and emotional performance and  is a certified Achieve Global leadership facilitator in which he does leadership workshops for companies on anything from communication, trust and of course, leadership.

UrbanYogi: What is your (professional) sports background? Tell us a little bit about your athletic career? 

Tony: I was a professional basketball player for 17 years. I’ve played at a very high level for a very long time and yoga was a direct result for that especially in my last half of my career.

 UY: What fitness routines or exercises did you do to enhance your athletic performance? 

Tony: Growing up I was led to believe a basketball player needed to be big and strong and bulky and it was also being a male athlete you have a perception to be this indestructible figure when that is not the case. I was doing a lot of counter productive exercises and routines that were very limiting.

UY: How did you discover yoga? 

Tony: I went through a self discovery process in which I questioned my purpose not only basketball but in life. I started to practice meditation and studied Buddhism. When I discovered that yoga was focused on breathing while being fit I was hooked!

UY: What kind of yoga classes do you take and how often do you practice?

I think all people who are curious about yoga need to know that the best teachers and classes allow students to discover yoga at their own pace. I was fortunate to take a couple of introductory classes at Urban Ashram where I felt challenged yet safe to make mistakes. I wasn’t ridiculed cause my pose wasn’t where someone thought it should be. I felt encouraged because it wasn’t about a competition  with other students but the process of trying to be better for myself.  I practice yoga daily even if it means 10 minutes of breathing and poses.

UY: Why did you decide to add yoga into your fitness routine? 

Tony: Yoga, like anything, is a practice. The greatest thing about yoga is you will never master it. And when you come to this understanding it will unlock this whole world for you to continue to strive to be better at it.  The greatest change I felt when I started practicing yoga was my ability to destress when something or someone upsets my balance. I would focus on my breathing.

I’m also more aware of my posture and therefore make corrections from moment to moment to stand taller and be more confident.  Last, I am more aware of how everything in my body is connected. From your toes to your ear lobes. So if you are aware of pain in your wrist maybe it arises in your neck.

UY: What are your biggest take aways from practicing yoga? 

Tony:  It has helped me understand that life is a process of doing and accepting and changes. Control is an illusion and learning to breathe and stay in the moment is the greatest gift yoga has given me.

UY: Would you recommend athletes to do yoga? 

Tony: YES! If you are an athlete and reading this I will say yoga is a great practice to relieve stress, gain confidence and increase your self awareness. But the greatest thing yoga offers to athletes is this, it’s not a competition. We as athletes are constantly justifying ourselves as better than the opponent, better than our teammate better than “them”. In yoga there is no better there just IS, and this is the greatest insight and breakthrough I found as an athlete practicing yoga.

 

 

ALLAN ALAGAO

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UY: What is your sports background? Tell us a little bit about your athletic career.
Allan: I only started getting into sports when I was already working. Got a wake-up call when my vitals (cholesterol, uric acid, blood sugar, etc.) started shooting up. I took up badminton in 2007, then joined one of our company’s tri-team as a relay swimmer in 2012. I then transitioned to full triathlon a year after. It was the discipline and training consistency in endurance sports (triathlons, long distance running and swimming) that my vitals improved and normalized.
 
UY: What fitness routines or exercises did you do to enhance your athletic performance?
Allan: I include mobility/flexibility, core and strengthening workouts to supplement my standard swim-bike-run workouts.
 
UY: How did you discover yoga?
Allan: I came to know of yoga from the internet and the various channels of social media. Several articles from sports-related websites recommend yoga for athletes.
UY: Why did you decide to add yoga into your fitness routine?
Allan: When I was preparing for my first Ironman(70.3) race, my online coach included yoga in my training program.
At first, I downloaded the recommended videos from the internet and used them as my guide for my yoga practice. My formal yoga practice started when our company included yoga as one of its fitness programs for employees. I practice Vinyasa flow classes twice a week.
UY: Kindly share the TOP 3 changes you felt in your body.
Allan: I have increased arm strength and improved flexibility and mobility. With my improved flexibility especially in my legs, I can now enjoy long runs without the fear of injury particularly on my IT band. Before yoga, I would usually slow down halfway through my long runs due to IT Band Syndrome.
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UY: What are your biggest take aways from practicing yoga? 

Allan: While perfecting those asanas, be it simple or complex, yoga has taught me awareness, acceptance and patience. Yoga has taught me to listen to my body and be aware of what it can do. And in learning what my body can do, I’ve learned to accept it’s limits. Unlike other disciplines where the coaches constantly shout at you to “push yourself”, yoga teaches you to be patient with your body. Yoga teaches you not hurry in your progress.

 
UY: Would you recommend athletes to do yoga? 
Allan: Yes, I highly recommend it. Injury is a common problem with athletes, but with improved strength, flexibility and mobility you’ll be able to prevent common overuse injuries that come with your chosen sport.
If you’re an athlete and reading this, check out Urban Ashram’s Flexibility Not Required classes (FNR)
which are targeted towards beginners. Sequences and poses taught in these classes are accessible and doable and definitely do not require you to be able to touch your toes. 

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