Sep 16, 2016
Adding Yoga, Pilates

Yoga and Pilates have long been popular for the general population. Now, high school teams are discovering that they can improve their on the field performance by taking part. Instead of hitting the weight room to get bigger muscles, they’re heading to studios and parks to train their core, increase their flexibility, and do soft tissue work.

Success Story: DeMatha High School in Maryland has one of the top football programs in the country. Two years ago, Head Coach Elijah Brooks had his players start taking part in Bikram Hot Yoga. This year, the team has added Pilates to the mix, and several players take part in hour-long sessions in the sweltering heat. Brooks says that the programs have already paid off.

“A lot of times … you tend to focus a lot on the weight room, but you take out the flexibility, the soft tissue development that goes on in yoga,” he told “The core gets worked in almost every pose in yoga, and we’ve seen it pay huge dividends with our players.”

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There’s been another bonus: Since Bikram Hot Yoga is done in close to 100-degree heat, it has prepared players for the heat of game day.

“We want to always give our kids an advantage,” Brooks said. “Being able to go out and play an August day or night [game] and know that we’ve been in these temperatures, equivalent to that of hot yoga, gives our guys, we feel, a mental edge.”

Regular Routine: Some programs have found success making yoga a regular part of their training regimen. At Liberty High School, in Bealeton, Va., the boys’ soccer team took advantage of a studio’s free “karma classes” and has made yoga an integral part of their workouts. During the offseason, the focus is on strength and flexibility, whereas during the season, the goal is helping players recover for the next game.

“Weeks where we had three games or more, [the studio owner] would come in and do a restorative exercise with them, relaxation with them, to try to work those muscles back, try to heal them up for a quick turn around,” Head Eric Coach Secknan told

Try it Out: If you’re not sure if yoga or Pilates is something that can benefit your team, there are ways to test it out before committing fully. Sean Vigue is a Colorado-based yoga and Pilates instructor and a bestselling author. In this YouTube video, he demonstrates his “Top 10 Yoga Stretches for Athletes,” which include: Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, Prayer Twists, and the Dolphin Pose. And in this video, The Yoga Room of Round Rock, Texas, shows several poses that can help athletes achieve greater flexibility and correct muscle imbalances.

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