Huskies Get Bent Out Of Shape

April 8, 2008

By Sheena Nguyen
The Daily

SEATTLE - Yoga is not easy. In fact, in my one encounter with yoga prior to this week, the highlight was being able to sit cross-legged (which feels to me how it feels to other people when they tear their ACL) for about .2 seconds.

Needless to say, upon mention that the men's tennis team participates in weekly yoga sessions, I was extremely surprised.

'This year, I felt we had a young team,' Washington coach Matt Anger said. 'They're very talented, but I looked out and I saw that we were not the most flexible group.'

These guys can run for hours on end and hit balls at a blistering speed when they're on the court, but holding a downward-facing dog pose on a yoga mat? I had my doubts as well.

Just the mention of yoga generally brings up connotations of girls in stretchy clothes holding impossible poses on a mat, but after showing up to a few yoga classes, it's quite apparent that this myth is completely debunked, as guys can be just as into yoga as girls, and the workout can be very manageable.

Proving this on a weekly basis, every Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. the men on the 23th-ranked tennis team in the nation spiritedly walk, however sweaty, out of the Lloyd Nordstrom Tennis Center, mats in hand, onto the east court of Hec Ed Pavillion to await their instructor.

'There are definitely some difficult positions that I have trouble with, but after those, it's all good.'
UW Junior David Chu

Once instructor Jennifer Hill from the PRO Sports Club in Bellevue arrives, the men cheerfully greet her and immediately begin setting out their mats and distribute foam blocks.

They then lie down on their backs and put their feet up on the wall with their knees bent. Slowly but surely, they all lift their bodies up for the first stretch of the evening, as Hill circles the class, helping each player with his form and emphasizing breathing.

The hour-long session continues in this manner, with various poses and Hill's soothing voice giving out instructions.

There were definitely a number of times when I felt my entire body shaking from holding my balance and trying not to fall over. Holding the difficult poses was the part of the class when it felt like time stood still. There were even a few remarks regarding whether it was time to switch positions yet. Nonetheless, everybody made it through the hour.

'There are definitely some difficult positions that I have trouble with, but after those, it's all good,' junior David Chu said. 'It's a good recovery session.'

When we walked through the door at the end of the session, even I felt looser and more refreshed.

Yoga has become a staple in many workout routines, and justifiably so.

'Some of the benefits of yoga are better focus, mental focus, balance, core strength and flexibility,' Hill said.

The beneficial effects are evident to other members of the tennis team as well.

'It's good to just have the time to not only stretch your muscles but also let your mind relax a little bit and do something that's good for your body, but not so physically grueling like we usually do,' freshman Skyler Tateishi said.

This is the kind of result coach Anger was looking for when yoga was incorporated into the team workout routine earlier this year.

'At the college level, there's a lot of yelling and screaming; it's a lot different than junior tennis,' Anger said. 'As a young team, I think it helps a little with the concentration and focus.'

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