Pose by Pose, Wildcats Embrace Yoga

From mental focus to flexibility to injury prevention, athletes around the globe are taking advantage of the numerous benefits yoga has to offer - especially baseball players. 
According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, the Texas Rangers have recently added yoga to their practice routine while numerous other professional baseball teams - from the Miami Marlins to the New York Yankees - have been hitting their yoga mats as well.  
So, it should come as no surprise that the K-State baseball team has also been taking advantage of yoga. 
"We started implementing yoga last fall," said K-State's strength and conditioning coach Tyler Looney, who began working with the team in the summer of 2013. "When I got hired on here, it was something coach and I discussed prior to my semester starting. The one thing the guys were lacking at the time was increased flexibility and mobility in certain areas. I can only do so much in the weight room, so we both kind of agreed that yoga would be something good to supplement that, especially the problem areas: the hips and shoulders."
Last fall, when the schedule wasn't as busy with traveling and competing every week, the Wildcats took yoga classes with Jessa Voos, owner of Orange Sky Yoga in Manhattan, and that's when the team really began seeing the benefits of practicing yoga.
"Working with athletes is really rewarding because they need yoga so, so much," said Voos, who has not only spent time working with the Wildcat baseball team, but also the men's basketball team, the tennis team and the track and field team. "It's fun as a teacher to see the benefits that yoga has for someone who uses their body as much as an athlete does. They're so tight and usually when they come to me, they're not very flexible, so to see it make a difference is really rewarding."
Although their current busy schedule hasn't allowed the team to meet with an instructor, that doesn't mean it hasn't continued to practice. 
Looney, after seeing the impact and the importance of it, decided to add 30-40 minute yoga sessions after the team's practices at least three times each week this spring. He said he has accumulated DVDs (a few are even "baseball yoga" specific) that he puts on for the team to stretch out and wind down after a tough day on the field.
"This year was the first year that I ever did yoga," laughed junior catcher Tyler Moore when asked how he's been enjoying it, "but I probably should have done it long before I got here. I can already see a drastic improvement, and I've only been doing it for a few months now. I've been catching most of the games since (Alex) Bee's been hurt, and with the flexibility and injury prevention, it's been big... I'm going to try and keep with it and am going to try and take a yoga class this summer."
Just like Moore, the rest of the team has really bought in to the newest addition to its workouts too - so much so, that last weekend, during its road trip in Texas, the Bat Cats found a yoga studio to take a class.
"When we were in Texas, we went to a yoga facility in Austin called Black Swan Yoga, and we had two yoga instructors there who really helped us out," said Moore. "If we were struggling they would help us position our bodies in ways that really helped us get the maximum stretch."
Perhaps the biggest yoga supporter on the team, Wildcat head coach Brad Hill has also been seeing great results since his team began taking on the new workouts. As a matter of fact, he was the mastermind behind making sure the team stayed well stretched while on the road.  
"It was my idea, so we made a few phone calls, found a place, and I know the guys really enjoyed it," laughed Hill about taking the team to a yoga studio during their trip to Austin. "When you're on the road like we were last week, when you're in a hotel room, on the bus and traveling, guys get really tight. So we did a little yoga while we were down there. It prevents injury, helps the guys feel a little looser."
More than just stretching, this past year yoga has become a staple in the Wildcat baseball locker room. 
"Yoga balances out the body. When people work out and do strength training, it tightens the body, but yoga opens the body back up," explained Voos. "Baseball players' shoulders are very tight, and I can imagine their hips and hamstrings are very tight, too. So yoga brings their body back into balance and helps with flexibility, mobility, injury prevention, all that good stuff. 
"Baseball players do a lot of core work, so yoga core work is really beneficial for them because of all the twisting that they do when they swing the bat. They need strong core muscles to be able to do that."
While it may have taken some time for the Wildcats to buy in to the new method of training, the team loves it now. Whether it's training with Voos, watching DVDs in the weight room with teammates or just practicing at home, yoga has become a new, exciting part of helping K-State baseball to success.
"I'd say the biggest thing that I've noticed is that on the recovery side, it helps guys feel better. That's a big thing," said Looney. "Baseball is one of those sports where it's such a mental game. If they feel better, they usually perform better. But I think the recovery part of it has been huge. Recovery, regeneration, it's been huge, it's helped a lot, and the guys seem to enjoy it. 
"It makes them feel better. So, this time of year, the priority is to keep them feeling good. It's my job to keep them feeling good and ready to play, and yoga has been a valuable tool we've used to keep them ready to play."
Coming off of a three-game series at No. 14 Texas last weekend, the Wildcats return home tonight to take on Omaha (13-8, 6-0 Summit League) at 6:30 p.m., in Tointon Family Stadium.  
"It's important for us to help us get some confidence going," said Hill on tonight's game. "You don't take Omaha lightly, it's a team that's really good. They battle us ever time we play them. It's always a good game, a close game. They're well coached, so we're going to have to be ready to play."
For more information on tonight's game, please click here.

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