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The feeling of sweat dripping, no, pouring off of you. The sinking feeling that you forgot your nonslip towel right as you enter the studio. The nearly unbearable humidity of the studio just five minutes into your practice. Hot yoga is arguably unlike any other practice. It’s a challenging practice, even for advanced yogis. And apparently for NBA players, too.
Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, two rising stars on the New York Knicks, recently attended a hot yoga class at Yogafreak with their associate head coach, Johnnie Bryant. While it’s unclear which class Quickley, Bryant, and Toppin attended, the Rye Brook, NY studio offers vinyasa and Bikram-style classes in a heated room.
Quickley posted about the class on his Instagram account, calling it “the hardest thing I’ve ever done….I was humbled today fasho lol,” according to Posting and Toasting, an SB Nation site covering the New York Knicks.
So, yes, this means that an actual, professional NBA athlete confirmed the difficulty of your hot yoga practice.
— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) May 4, 2022
The role of yoga in the NBA
For the Knicks, yoga isn’t a new part of their offseason preparation. In 2016, Men’s Journal chronicled the Knicks’ foray into the practice. The players participated in classes led by Gwen Lawrence, who serves as the yoga instructor for a number of New York sports teams, including the Knicks, the Rangers and the Giants.
In a 2015 interview with Yoga Journal, Lawrence noted how a yoga practice can help target strained or tight muscles for athletes. She typically recommends hip openers—due to the physical and emotional impact of sports play on the hips. “Not only do open hips save the knees and help athletes move on a dime and absorb energy and impact, they are the storage depot for stress, anxiety, and fear,” she said.
For athletes, tapping into the sources of their emotional and mental stress is just as important as treating physical pain. While many of us suffer from perfectionism, pro players also face intense performance expectations. Over time, that kind of stress can be debilitating. In this context, yoga becomes not only an important physical practice for athletes—but a mental one as well.
It’s not just the Knicks who see the importance of yoga. Other NBA stars, including LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Kevin Love attribute their impressive athletic performance to their yoga practice. In fact, the new HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, depicts Abdul-Jabbar (played by actor Solomon Hughes) practicing yoga in a dashiki at his home–all the way back in 1980.
A look at the Knicks' post-practice yoga session: pic.twitter.com/5NUrH3R2wM
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 6, 2016
How did two NBA players end up at a hot yoga studio?
So how did two NBA players end up at a hot yoga studio in Rye Brook? Quickley and Toppin may have been following the lead of their coach. Bryant appears to follow Yogafreak on Instagram. It’s not clear whether he just really loved that one class or if he’s a studio regular. Regardless of his studio status, it’s clear that Bryant wants his players to practice yoga in the offseason. And we’re definitely in support of that.