Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
The former NFL linebacker, philanthropist, and sports analyst for NBC Sports in Atlanta gives YJ a peek into his practice.
1. He’s a believer.
I have degenerative discs in my back, so I usually have to sleep with a pillow between my legs to support my lower back. My first week taking yoga classes with Jason Anderson at Atlanta Hot Yoga, I forgot to sleep with a pillow. I woke up at 4 a.m. in a panic until I realized, “There’s no piercing pain in my back. I’m not hunched over.” At that moment, I knew this yoga stuff was for real.
2. He likes the mind game.
I love the mental gratification of yoga. My mind has so many thoughts running around, but during yoga it’s at ease. It’s one of the only times that I can relax. After class, I can actually finish several thoughts on different topics and complete to-do lists without getting distracted.
3. Yoga is his magic bullet.
I’m one of only seven linebackers in the history of professional football to start for 200 games. Everyone is always trying to find out how I played in the NFL for 15 years. I tell them that you have to treat a hangnail the same way you treat a hamstring pull: Give it your full attention. I tell guys, “You need to do yoga to be strong, fast, and physical. It will help you stay loose and get the most out of your body.”
4. He’s not afraid to sing the practice’s praises—or to post pose pics.
Guys see my yoga photos and are like, “Man, don’t get on Instagram with tights on and your shirt off!” But I tell them, “If you’re on a regimen with yoga, instead of having a torn hamstring you can reduce it to a minor strain.” The NFL season is hard and intense training day in and day out. It’s natural for your muscles to tighten up due to dehydration, fatigue, or a contusion. Yoga helps with flexibility and will decrease your chances of getting hurt.
5. He abides by the philosophy “practice makes progress.”
My first yoga class was difficult because I wanted to do what I saw everyone else in class doing with ease. It was frustrating, but I knew that I was going against the grain as far as flexibility was concerned since I used to lift weights so much. I went home and kept stretching until I felt more comfortable going to class. My flexibility improved tremendously. It was tough, but I never gave up.
Takeo’s Favorite pose
Bakasana (Crane Pose). I feel it in my back all the way through my core. It’s helped me a lot.
Takeo’s Words to Live By
I believe in living in the moment. Why wait to do something tomorrow if it can be done today?
See alsoMore Reasons Athletes Need Yoga