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Are You Ready for Some Yoga?

Neal Pollack has found a way to get his fix of yoga and Sunday football.

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Photo of football fan from Shutterstock.

January 1 fell on a Sunday this year, meaning that one of the two days where I traditionally do 108 Sun Salutations (the other being my birthday), coincided with a busy NFL TV schedule. I’d slept in by design, which meant that by the time I was ready to practice, kickoff was approaching. It was an easy decision to combine the two activities. I realized that would perhaps take me out of the “serious yogi” category, but I’ve never really qualified for that badge anyway.

Asana requires careful attention to breath and posture, so in my regular practice, pausing the TV during commercials would be distracting at best, dangerous at worst. But for the ultra-repetitive 108 sun-salute gig, it’s fine. A Sun Salutation can be seen as something sacred, or you can look at it as a yoga pushup combined with a backbend and a deep stretch. You can knock out a half-dozen Surya Namaskars quicker than the Ravens’ offensive coordinator can design a three-and-out. I’ve done it, so I know.

Football and yoga would seem to have little in common. Yoga culture is often a muddle of kirtan, New Age platitudes, and hard-to-swallow green juice. Football is beer, Aerosmith, and nachos. Yoga people are mostly warm, kind, and generous. The traditional football fan will throw things at you if you’re wearing the wrong jersey. But I practice yoga, and I still like football a lot.

Yoga is about meeting your body and mind where they are in the present moment and developing a series of routines to make you feel better, no matter the circumstances. It’s a wonderful thing that exists to benefit all humanity, including football fans. Other than occasionally ducking out on a game for a late-afternoon restorative class, doing yoga for eight years hasn’t really diminished my consumption of football-based entertainment at all. Nor should it. The Yoga Sutra doesn’t tell me not to watch “Inside The NFL” or root against Tim Tebow. Instead, it talks about “discriminating awareness” and “non-attachment to results.” These, especially the latter, are excellent qualities for a football fan to develop.

Now Super Bowl Sunday approaches. It’s an orgiastic national celebration of commercialism, greed, psuedo-patriotic bombast, noise, excess, and violence, the least superficially yogic of occasions. But you can adapt it to your purposes.

I don’t recommend practicing asana during the game. Not the Super Bowl. Like Presidential election returns or American Idol finales, it’s best watched with a group. Instead, do your practice, whatever that might be, in the morning or early afternoon, and then check out the big game. You’ll feel better, and just might eat a couple fewer Buffalo wings. Enjoy the kula, though smack anyone who says they “only like the ads.” As a bonus, Madonna, the ultimate Ashtangi, is performing at halftime. Mention her yoga practice just to see how annoyed people get at you.

Yoga and football actually work together quite well, like celery and blue cheese dip. Back on Jan. 1, I did yoga and watched football all by myself, and it was awesome fun. I nailed those 108 Sun Salutes, many of them during timeouts. My guns were barking when it was done. I just wanted to sit on the couch for a couple of hours and do nothing.

Fortunately, it was only halftime.