Yoga in the NBA

Last night my husband and I went to our first professional basketball game.  We have been Lakers fans for years but had never made it to a game until now.  We had a great time and I’m sure this will not be our last game.

One of the biggest things I noticed while the players were warming up before the game was the use of yoga.  I was impressed to see downward dogs, warriors, chaturanga, and upward dogs on the court.  Athletes can benefit in so many ways from yoga. After doing some research online I found that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the first NBA athletes to practice yoga.  He holds many records in the league and has played more minutes than any other player in NBA history. For a man that large, it seems hard to have longevity in a career like basketball, however he admits that yoga helped with that.  Because of all the high impact movements like running and jumping on the court, basketball players (and many other athletes) have a tendency for tight muscles and injured ankles.  Yoga is a great way to not only increase flexibility but also a way to prevent/minimize injury risk.

Kent Katich is the NBA’s Guru Yogapreneur and has adjusted his practice to make it more basketball friendly.  Athletes listen to music that includes artists like Tupac and Kanye West, no spandex required, no chanting, and no sanskrit.  I admire how he has adjusted his yoga classes to the person who is taking them and how he has made yoga more approachable for the athlete. (  After reading this, I’m inspired to adjust my practice a little more based on the type of client that I am working with.  I typically work with beginner yogis and so I think that by making these small adjustments, I may be able to help engage my students a little more.  Katich is striving to break the mold by helping modern athletes to become comfortable in an unfamiliar territory.  He’s finding many athletes are saying that flexibility is the key to longevity.  This is important because in a world of athletes lifting heavy weights and trying to run the fastest sprint, many athletes are close-minded to new ways to help improve their game.  Today in the NBA, many different teams are employing yoga instructors as part of their programs, on and off season.  According to Clippers guard Baron Davis. “If you can find a place that keeps you centered, both mentally and physically, it can help push your game to the next level.”  Yes, many athletes are used to conventional strength and conditioning and even probably prefer it too.  But, many strength coaches, including my husband, believes that flexibility can greatly improve an athlete’s ability to become stronger, decrease injury, and overall promote longevity as an athlete.  I will be interested to see how yoga evolves in professional sports over the next few years.  I think more teams will be changing their mindset and incorporating this in to their practices.


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