Football, men’s soccer turn to yoga
By Manisha Apte, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, March 4, 2010
At first glance, the Dartmouth football team and men’s soccer team might not have much in common. When it comes to training, however, both are fluent in terms such as “lord of the fishes” and “pigeon pose,” which have been used during team yoga sessions.
Instructed by Julia Cedergren — the wife of men’s soccer assistant coach Johan Cedergren — the teams have incorporated yoga to help the athletes improve flexibility and stretch out tight muscles.
While the soccer team is entering its second year of supplemental yoga, the football team completed its first term with weekly sessions this Fall.
“I’ve been noticing this semester in particular that we have a lot of flexibility issues with the hips, the hamstrings and the shoulders,” football strength and conditioning coach Kaitlin Sweeney said. “[Yoga] is a great way for them to work on those weaknesses as a team, instead of having to do it on their own.”
Due to NCAA regulations on practice hours, the yoga sessions are optional for the football team, but around 35 players have chosen to attend each class. Head coach Buddy Teevens has also participated in a few sessions.
“Whenever we ever do any kind of workout, [Teevens] usually tries to get involved in it,” offensive linesman Pat Lahey ’12 said. “It’s a testament to how much he believes [yoga] will help us to actually have him there doing it with us.”
Lahey said he has already seen a marked improvement in training since starting yoga because much of football off-season testing relies heavily on flexibility and fluidity of motion.
Many of the players who have been practicing yoga boosted their results on pro-agility as well as power cleans and squats tests administered this week, he added.
“There is a dynamic component in putting them in positions that they’re not normally in, and it allows them to increase their range of motion,” Sweeney said. “It allows them to open up their hips a little more and hopefully that will translate into better strides as they’re running and deeper squat positions.”
The men’s soccer team and football team focus on similar yoga poses, Julia Cedergren said.
“There is overlap because of the running that they both do, since it affects their hips and hamstrings,” she said. “Both teams do a lot of weight training and that can tighten [the same] muscles, too.”
Hip flexibility, in addition to hamstring flexibility, is the main focus for the soccer team which utilizes poses such as “the crescent moon” and “the pigeon” to help stretch legs and hip rotators.
“One of my favorite positions is definitely the pigeon pose — we’ve got to loosen those hips,” winger Austin Bowers ’11 said. “I don’t really like the frog pose. It’s tough, but I think my teammates and I are big fans of child’s pose.”
Before leading sessions for the soccer and football teams, Julia Cedergren began instructing team yoga lessons for the women’s golf team as a FLIP yoga instructor. She then expanded her repertoire to hold classes for the swim team, field hockey team and men’s rugby team.
“I think that, in general, stretching is pretty intense for athletes because they get really tight lactic acid buildup in muscles from all the training that they do,” Julia Cedergren said.
She does not offer a traditional yoga session, instead she incorporates poses into the classes that represent a form closest to yin, or hatha yoga, she explained.
The soccer team’s yoga workout usually focuses on the legs and then the upper body before cooling down to focus on breathing and relaxing, Lucky Mkosana ’12 said.
Julia Cedergren said the teams take their yoga classes very seriously, with the goal of becoming familiar enough with the stretches to be able to relax through them.
“It doesn’t get too competitive in yoga — we leave that on the field,” Bowers said. “[The end] is definitely our favorite part. I think some of us take that time to take a little nap. It’s definitely a good reward after a long 30 minutes of stretching.”
In addition to improving range of motion, yoga also potentially helps reduce the athletes’ mental stress, Mkosana said.
“It really helps you mentally when you’re playing soccer, and you can relax your mind,” Mkosana said. “Sometimes people practice too much with just the skill, but they forget about the mind, which is also important.”