Dallas Mavericks forward Brian Cardinal, whose wife is a yoga instructor, reserves his time on the yoga mat for the offseason, even though he admitted younger players have opened up to the discipline. “I’m a big believer in it,” said the 11-year big man, who prefers sticking to his yoga-free in-season routine. “I think the newer generation of will do it much more than older athletes.” Two of his teammates, forward Shawn Marion and guard Jason Terry, don’t share his enthusiasm.
That there is even one NBA team which has a yoga instructor on the payroll is fairly surprising. Yoga has a fundamental association with nature and soft music and showing one’s sensitive side. That doesn’t jive with an NBA environment that is filled with aggressiveness, even ruthlessness. “Soft” doesn’t work; NBA players can read through someone trying to tap into their inner self. “You can’t talk about the sun and opening your heart,” Katich said. “[The players] are going to shut you off, and they’re going to laugh at you.”
While most players seem to take up the India-originated discipline on their own time, there are a few teams around the League that give their players an opportunity to practice it. The Denver Nuggets are one of those teams, having employed a yoga instructor for the past seven years to work with players primarily during the offseason. The Atlanta Hawks hired a yoga instructor before this season to train their players in the finer points of the discipline. The New York Knicks used to have a yoga instructor occasionally visit their practice facility in Westchester, just outside New York City, yet a team representative confirmed they no longer do so. Then there are the Los Angeles Clippers, a long-moribund franchise which isn’t often associated with progressiveness. Yet that’s exactly what they are when the subject falls on yoga in the NBA.
“That shit is hard,” Marion said. He claimed he’s tried yoga only a few times at his offseason home in Chicago; accessibility to it has kept him from trying it on a more frequent basis, although he wouldn’t elaborate exactly what was inaccessible about it. Terry explained he avoids yoga for the simple fact that it’s painful. “I don’t like pain,” Terry said. “Why would you do something that hurts?”