Iowa State mixes in some yoga

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
5:00
PM ET
The preseason is boring. The only good news is we're all in it together. Because while we fans sit around and beg for real, actual basketball, college coaches and players are stuck in preseason workout limbo, drilling skills and lifting weights and running in open gyms but not actually playing any real five-on-five basketball. It's got to be the worst part of the calendar, especially for players. Games are fun. Practices are not fun. And for another six weeks, all anybody can do is practice.

Which is precisely why you've got to spice it up. In the past, VCU coach Shaka Smart has put his VCU Rams through Navy Seals training. This summer, DePaul's Oliver Purnell worked some beach volleyball into the sprint-and-lift routine. Some of it is fun, some of it is brutal physical stress, some of it is both. Anything to change up the routine.

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has his own variation on this theme: yoga. Maybe you've heard of it? I hear it's pretty popular, and by "hear" I mean everyone I know and everyone that lives within a mile of my house is always either a) doing yoga, b) talking about doing yoga, or c) buying overpriced clothes in which they might one day ostensibly do yoga. It's easy to be dismissive, in other words, but yoga does have its recognized benefits -- from breathing to muscle strength and flexibility to good old-fashioned meditative calm.

The Iowa State kids seem to be feeling all of the above these days. Or maybe that's just exhaustion? Ames Tribune reporter (and friend of the CBN) Travis Hines stopped by for a hot session last week, and both senior Melvin Ejim and sophomore forward Georges Niang were effusive in their praise, even if Niang's "runner's pose" elicited "the pained expression of someone attempting to squat 400 pounds."
“When [instructor] Emily [Hampton] is telling you not to let up, this is all in your head, it’s so true,” Niang said. “It’s like when you’re down five with 30 seconds to go. You have to tell yourself you can do it and fight through.” […]
“To be able to completely focus on one thing, to let go of what your mind is thinking and kind of just give yourself the opportunity to get everything out of what you’re doing,” said Ejim, “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

It's also a lot of fun to watch. I mean, I'm guessing; I haven't seen Iowa State do yoga. But come on -- it's a bunch of huge 7-foot yoga noobs crammed into one studio. How could that not be hilarious?

Anyway, this is interesting to me not because I'm certain it will give Iowa State some mental edge -- though playing at breakneck speed the way the Cyclones do, it can't hurt -- but because it seems so obvious. Strength and speed are great, but flexibility is what ties it all together, and in few sports is 180-degree dexterity as important as this one. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar figured it out in the 1970s, and played basketball for approximately 82 years. Yet this is the first I can remember hearing of a team doing yoga as part of its workout regimen. Are other programs already on board here? Is it so obvious it doesn't require a mention? Or have college hoops programs been slow to pick it up? Is yoga not as widely accepted as I think? Forget changing the preseason workout pace. For basketball cross-training, yoga seems like a no-brainer.

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