Motivator & Yoga Mentor For Men

How The NFL Could Shift Its Criminal Culture With Yoga

After the horrific video of Ray Rice punching his fiance and dragging her limp body out of an elevator was released, domestic violence is back in the spotlight for the NFL. As of 2012, 21 teams had a player on its roster who had faced domestic violence or assault charges. In the past month, the NFL has been a hot-bed of criminal behavior.

The only way to eliminate the barbaric off-field behavior in the NFL is to shift the culture. You become what you practice. If players are treated like animals or objects, that’s what they become. Yoga is the most efficient method to change the values in a league that desperately needs transformation.

From Sadistic to Supportive

In June 2013, Chris Ballard, the director of player personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs, delivered a harsh message to recent draft picks. “Most of you will not be in this league three years from now,” he said,according to ESPN. ”Nobody cares about your problems. The fans don’t care. The media doesn’t care. And ownership doesn’t care. They care about results.”

He said this just seven months after a Kansas City player, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend nine times, then killed himself in the team’s parking lot.

It’s this brutal treatment that produces players who act violently. Sports are meant to be competitive. However, players who have off-the-field problems could learn to be peaceful without diminishing their athletic performance. With the support of yoga, teams could change their tone to be more positive. Yoga students practice seeing the good first. Imagine coaches who actually care about their players and build up their confidence rather than tear them down.

The Seattle Seahawks are doing just that. Pete Carroll, head coach for the Seattle Seahawks, has his team practice meditation and holds mandatory yoga sessions. As he’s said in previous interviews: “I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?”

Last year, Carroll’s Seahawks didn’t just win the Super Bowl. They destroyed the Denver Broncos 43 to 8.

[Read: Men: How to Crush Any Workout and Win More With Yoga.]

Vulnerability and Self-Worth

Right now, football players are not willing to reach out for help when they’re suffering. The NFL is not conducive to a healthy self-esteem. Many feel alone, and much has been said about the large number of suicides.

“The four years I played pro football were some of the most horrendous of my life,” Jimmy Stewart, a licensed family therapist and former defensive back with the Saints and Lions, told ESPN. “I cried alone. I was frightened. I badly needed somebody to talk to, and I know so many guys today who feel the same way.”

Yoga is the practice of becoming honest with yourself and others – from being fierce without being abusive, to the awareness of your breath and how you feel. When a team buys into these ideals, lines of communication will open. Over time, players who struggle to have a  difficult conversation about their problems will open up.

Proactive coaches who talk with players promote results both on and off the field. “If I go ballistic on a guy because he dropped his outside hand or missed an underneath stunt, who is wrong? I am,” Tom Cable, the Seahawks’ assistant coach, has said. “I’m attacking his self-confidence and he’s learning that if he screws up, he’s going to get yelled at. If you make a mistake here, it’s going to get fixed.”

[Read: 9 Qualities of Great Yoga Teachers.]

Reactive to Responsive

Athletes are trained to react. In the heat of the moment, they don’t have time to over-think their next move. If you just default to your knee-jerk reaction in real-life situations, you’ll likely do something you regret. Yoga trains your mind to pause, so you can learn to force yourself to stop and breathe. In yoga, there are crucial moments where the class becomes so challenging that students want to run for the door and quit. It’s right at that mental edge where a yoga practice is most beneficial. You want to always practice at that precipice, and pause and navigate your emotions skillfully rather than impulsively. With that clarity, players could respond to stressful situations in a more thoughtful way.

Positive Thinking

Happy players are more effective players. In a league that is hypercritical and always demanding players perform, a yoga practice can help athletes think positively. I have students in yoga class achieve a level of health they never imagined possible just thanks to encouragement. If players had that kind of support, they would be well-equipped with the courage to make decisions from a positive mindset.

[Read: 10 Tips for Practicing Yoga at Home.]


Yoga is a practice of visualizing greatness – to see yourself as the positive change you want to facilitate. Students visualize themselves in a pose and take logical steps toward achieving that shape. This empowers them to control their mind and change their behavior appropriately. They learn they have a choice, and this realization leads to better behavior off the mat.

“We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special,” quarterback Russell Wilson has said. “We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.”


Intentions and constructive thinking matter. However, they’re only part of the equation for positive change. Unless you put your intentions into action, nothing gets accomplished. What you do matters. What you don’t do matters. In yoga, you learn to be completely honest with yourself and responsible for your choices. You make decisions to take a step back or advance in a pose based on clear mental and physical landmarks. Through this process of self-assessment, you learn about yourself and your tenacious tendencies – whether it’s how you handle yourself in a relationship or the inclination to misalign in a yoga pose. With practice, you learn to manage your habits accordingly. In this way, misalignments can be viewed more positively, as a gift, as what helps keeps you honest.

Men: How To Crush Any Workout & Win More With Yoga


If you’re a guy who grew up in America, you most likely competed in sports. It’s part of our upbringing and it is a large part of who we are as a culture.


Sports prepare you for life. They teach work ethic, how to win respectfully and how to lose with dignity and seek redemption. We like to work hard, physically compete and earn our victories.

Where I live, in Philadelphia, this is built into the fabric of the city. There is nothing Philly fans want more than to win. The professional athletes here thrive by practicing yoga regularly. As the yoga trainer for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union and other athletes like David Buchanan, pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, I’m inspired to hear them rave about the benefits of yoga on their athletic performance.

The pros get it – yoga gives them an edge to succeed. If athletes at the highest level of competition are killing it with yoga, so could athletes of every level. Whether you’re competing in sports, or if you’re a recreational runner, rock-climber, cyclist, weight-lifter or cross-fitter, perform at your best with yoga.

[Read: 9 Qualities of Great Yoga Teachers]

Injury Prevention Through Yoga
I will never forget the moments in my wrestling career that I was unable to compete because I was injured. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to sit out because you’re hurt. Even if you decide to compete in pain, it could be downright dangerous and frustrating to step into the ring with a debilitating injury.

Athletes are especially prone to injury because they tend to be more strong than flexible and create more torque and strain on their joints. I often look at the injury-list before watching a professional game and shake my head because a lot of injuries are a result of immobility or lack of muscle-specific strength. Some injuries are unavoidable. However, many can be prevented with a steady yoga routine.

Yoga students develop flexibility and an acute attention to alignment, breath and pain-sensation. The basic poses are very powerful and therapeutic. If done intelligently, they strengthen and stretch the body in a way that promotes a keen awareness of pain and dangerous misalignment.


[Read: 10 Tips for Practicing Yoga at Home]

Be Fierce Without Losing Your Composure
A strong yoga practice demands that you challenge yourself and work harder than you ever thought you possibly could without running for the door screaming. Even after years of practice, there are still times at yoga where I’m sure I’m going to break down and throw in the towel. There’s a pivotal moment where I’m nearly certain I will never be able to make it through a class.

Much like working out or athletics, you have to contain that raw emotion and ferocity and use it as a tool to up your game. It is a powerful technique of bumping against your physical and mental edges repeatedly and in that moment, be at your best. Zac MacMath, the goalkeeper for the Philadelphia Union explained to me that yoga helps him when the game is on the line and it matters most. Through his yoga practice, he’s more relaxed and centered to make crucial saves and keep his team in the game!

Yoga Complements Cardio
Yoga is great for cardiovascular workouts and sports. It trains you to breathe more efficiently, and you’re asked to be aware of your breath at all times. This breathing technique demands that you consciously deepen your breath especially when you are struggling. So when you feel like you are winded and ready to break down, you’re able to finish your run or bike race strongly. Most cardio is running intensive. For sports like soccer, where players are running for 90 minutes straight with bursts of explosive sprints, a yoga routine that stretches the hamstrings, quads, IT bands and hips is a great way to facilitate mobility in the lower body.

A yoga regimen that includes down-dog, side-angle, triangle, pigeon, thigh-stretches, half-split, pyramid and twisted triangle would hit these key muscle groups – alleviate joint pain, and ease ware and tare on the knees, ankles and hips.

[Read: 9 Qualities of Great Yoga Teachers]

Yoga for Anaerobic, Technical Sports
For the technicians like weightlifters, baseball players and golfers, alignment and bio-mechanics are crucial. The day Phillies pitcher, David Buchanan came to my class, we talked for two hours about the mechanical skills he needs to deliver a killer fastball pitch. In his routine, we worked the hamstrings and hips in a way that helped him get more leverage in his delivery and explode off his planted foot.

For pitchers like David, working poses that stretch the hamstrings and hips without misaligning the knees are key to opening his body and improve his pitching technique. The poses are engineered to promote healthy alignment and target the areas that need to be opened and strengthened to perform optimally. In golf, it’s finding a deeper rotation in the torso without swaying the hips. Twists and lateral stretching in yoga are extremely helpful for this key action. Form in weight-training is paramount.

No matter which muscle groups you’re targeting, yoga can help with your precision and breathing technique. Yoga uses clear physical landmarks and safety cues while moving mindfully with your breath.


Yoga for Combative Competitions
Yes, yoga even helps those whose sports who are meant to inflict pain on their opponents. Mental toughness, physical leverage and balance are key in hand-to-hand combat sports, such as wrestling, football, mixed martial arts and boxing. Yoga technique allows you to move your body fluidly and to powerfully position yourself and strike an opponent with deadly force. There’s many balancing poses like tree, warrior-three and dancer’s pose, where you’re asked to balance on one foot while stretching. This awareness helps you stay on your feet, defend and recover from offensive attacks more skillfully. These sports can be brutal on your body. The yoga poses stretch your body therapeutically and help to recover from grueling bouts.


Mobility/Range of Motion
With any workout, the more seamlessly you are able to move in your body, the more you will get out of your session. Workouts like rock-climbing and cross-fit demand good alignment and mobility. Rock climbers can strengthen their lower body to help hoist and hold themselves up, while opening and stretching the legs, hips and shoulders with yoga.

In crossfit, to advance you need to learn alignment to get into handstand pushups and other technical positions. Both require a strong core. Yoga helps develop strength by engaging your muscles in every pose, and flexibility where you need it most, so your body works like a fine-tuned machine.

Explosive Core Strength
In almost all athletics, there is a crucial moment where you’re invoking a fiery burst of movement. Whether you’re throwing shot-put, sprinting or tackling another player, this split-second movement is often the difference between winning or losing the battle. In all the yoga poses, you are engaging your core. Not only does yoga strengthen your 6-pack abs, but it also reaches those more subtle core muscles that get neglected like your obliques and transverse abdominis. Most yoga classes involve core-work, which  teaches you how to fire and build your core without hurting your back or hip-flexors.

Balance and Symmetry
Workouts often require a repetitive motion, whether you’re throwing a ball with one hand or planting with the same foot numerous times to jump or sprint. This makes your muscles develop asymmetrically. You can shift this imbalance with yoga. Yoga stretches the body evenly on either side. If you become so lopsided that it is problematic, you can structure your yoga routine to counter that asymmetry. When I teach Union soccer players, I take into account their specific position and have them hold some poses longer to balance their bodies. That way, both the right-side defender who is mostly healthy and the left-footed forward with the bad back each get exactly what they need from their practice.

[Read: 5 Yoga Poses You Can Do on an Airplane]

Breath Control
Intense workouts will leave you short of breath. Yoga teaches you to control your breath especially when you’re about to lose control. Over time, you can skillfully deepen and control your breath while you’re working out. It demands an awareness in your body and through breath control, you develop an intelligence that distinguishes the difference between muscle pain and injury.

Recovery Time
Performance improves dramatically when you’re pain-free. Yoga poses stretch your body, ease muscle soreness, and clear pain and tension. The less sore you are, the faster you get back into the game and into your workout routine. If you’re in pain before you start your workout, you won’t fully go for it and get as much out of it. During the Union yoga sessions, the players are usually between games or fresh off of a workout. We normally focus on restoring their bodies and practice in a way that resolves their injuries, pain and soreness.

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Create a Routine & Stick With it: 10 Tips for Practicing Yoga at Home

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At some point, it’s necessary to develop a personal yoga practice to maintain your strength, flexibility and sanity.


A personal routine will keep you in the game, no matter where you are or how your circumstances change. While yoga classes are a wonderful way to have fun, learn good alignment and build community, realistically, you won’t always have the luxury and time to attend class. A home practice will keep you feeling healthy, grounded and pain-free. It’s simple to start, and if you make it fun and effective, it’s sustainable.

Ask a teacher. Starting your home practice can seem overwhelming at first. There are so many different poses to choose from and even more videos and online programs. Unless you’re familiar with the poses or teacher already, it will nearly be impossible to navigate through all these resources. My suggestion is to ask your favorite local yoga teacher, who already knows you well, to help you develop a short home practice. Make sure you are clear that it has to be accessible and no longer than 10 to 15 minutes, or about 15 poses. Even if your instructor simply writes the poses for you via email, that’s a great way to get started.

Make space. Have a spot designated in your house or apartment for yoga. It doesn’t have to be anything glamorous or “zen,” but it should be able to fit your mat and allow you the freedom to move around comfortably. Have a free wall nearby to help with balance, inversions and other modifications. Reserving a spot for yoga makes it easier to practice at home regularly. Mentally, a yoga space helps you commit to sticking with it.

[Read: 7 Benefits of Yoga for Men]

Have a routine. Pick a time during the day to set aside for yoga. Make it a priority for yourself. Just like brushing your teeth, it’s not negotiable. It is your health, after all. The best time for a home practice is in the morning, before anything else comes up and derails you. Have a core sequence of poses that you practice every time. A sequence that you repeat is a great way to keep you focused, strong and flexible. If you’ve been practicing and making progress, you don’t want to lose it. Stick with a regimen, and it will make you feel more at home and yourself when you practice it.

Keep it short and simple. Have a home practice that you can complete in 10 to 15 minutes. While practicing for an hour is preferable, the idea is that you get what you need in your session, even when you’re short on time. A few poses I suggest: down dog, hip-opener, thigh stretch, hamstring stretch, back-bend, twist, seated forward-fold and standing poses, such as side-angle and triangle. They are infinitely deep and powerful when opening and strengthening your body.

Mix it up. Always have a core set of poses you practice. However, if you find yourself getting bored with your sequence, include different poses and variations. Keep it fun and light-hearted. Just be sure to know your limitations and when to practice humility and patience.

Challenge yourself. When you work hard on something that you love to do, it’s rewarding, and that’s the key to keep your mind clear and happy. There is no limit to the ways to challenge your yoga practice. Work toward a new pose. Start a timer, and hold poses for a minute or two. If you work at your physical edge without crossing it, then you’re making progress. The payoff is worth the sweat and effort you put in. (Note, however, that if you’re short of breath, clenching your jaw or in pain, you’ve gone too far.)

Gather the proper supplies. Safety is key. For healthy alignment, have these props: a yoga mat, two yoga blocks, a blanket and a strap to allow for modifications in the poses. Every pose can be adjusted with or without props. The props make the postures accessible and offer more options to continue to advance while staying safe. As you become knowledgeable on how to carefully place more injury-prone parts of your body in the postures, like lowering your knees to the ground, you only need the mat beneath you and the space to move freely.

Get inspired. A great resource for all levels of yoga practitioners is the “Yoga Resource Practice Manual” e-book  by Darren Rhodes. Darren is an excellent teacher and yogi. His e-book is thorough yet concise, and it provides pictures of each posture. The pictures alone are inspirational. If you’re in it for the long haul, this is a great home-practice tool.

Have no shame. Own it. Get your practice in anytime and anywhere. Bust out a down-dog or forward-fold in the airport, the office or in the hotel room.Take care of yourself first, and everyone around you will benefit from you being more grounded and happy.

Make it work for you. No matter what technique you use to continue your practice, stay with it. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Believe in yourself and believe you are worth it!

Ask Jake To Help You Develop Your Own Yoga Routine!

Featured in Men’s Health Magazine



Written by: Ali Eaves of Men’s Health
Photos by Dom Episcopo

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7 Reasons Why Men Should Do Yoga: Gentleman, Get On Your Mats

While women are still the majority in yoga classes, there’s a strong movement of men not only trying yoga, but striving both on and off the mat.

Men benefit just as much from a regular yoga routine as women. Here’s how:

Yoga alleviates pain and injury. Most men come to yoga with injuries and pain, particularly in the back, knees and joints. Yoga uses controlled movements, expert alignment, biomechanics and breath to open your body efficiently while minimizing the risk of injury. Safety and alignment are the absolute first prio

rities in yoga. Yoga demands that you do not push beyond what you are capable of doing safely. Clear physical landmarks and attention to the breath prevent you from pushing past your limits. There’s always a variation or modification to keep you safe while still progressing and challenging yourself. Within the first month of a regular yoga routine, you will alleviate your pain and injuries

– beyond that, yoga will help take your health to a whole new level.

Yoga keeps your body fit, flexible and strong. 
Many men say, “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.” That is like saying, “I’m not strong enough to lift weights.” The poses are powerful and specifically designed to open and strengthen your body efficiently. Yoga will make you more flexible, light and in many ways stronger than any other exercise – without wrecking your body! With patience and steady practice, you will become more open than you’ve ever imagined. The right combination of strength and mobility is key, whether you’re a professional athlete or just trying to age gracefully. You will tone and strengthen muscles that you didn’t know you had. The small muscles in your back that have been deteriorating from that desk job will be getting a long-awaited wake-up call. With a commitment to yoga, you will be a lean, mobile, strong and physically fit yoga machine.

Yoga will provide the fun challenge you craveYoga is more than just sitting around, humming and talking about your feelings. As a former collegiate wrestler, I can honestly say that some yoga classes are more challenging than any workout I’ve ever done. It will be humbling at times, but worth it. You will learn how to challenge yourself without being competitive. Competition will result in injury. Most men come from a strong athletic or business-minded background, where competition is fierce. Yoga teaches you to challenge yourself intelligently and completely without being overly aggressive. Learning new poses and noticing real progress is addicting! The light-hearted, compassionate attitude in yoga will help you to not take yourself too seriously, even while you’re sweating it out.

Yoga will help improve diet, sleep and overall health. Once you’re feeling the physical benefits of your yoga regimen, you naturally begin to shift your diet and sleeping patterns. You will no longer want to eat a pint of ice cream or stay out late on a weeknight knowing you’re doing these healthy things for yourself. During yoga, you will notice your mind is so focused on what you’re doing that it is impossible to think about your job, bills or anything else. You find yourself fully in the moment, and that complete focus puts your mind at ease. Afterward, you will feel grounded and relaxed. The combination of your body and mind feeling fantastic is a recipe for practical, healthy lifestyle changes.

Yoga allows you to do the things you love more efficiently and for longer. The whole point of yoga is to live your life to the fullest. Whether you love to run, fish, golf, play basketball, travel or play with your kids without hurting yourself – yoga will help you do the things you love better and longer. While the yoga poses are fun and a strong tool, they’re not the point. What matters is that when you feel great, you are able to truly savor life.

Yoga improves your performance and relieves stress. In the trenches of the workplace, sports arena, family reunions and even the grocery store, you will face many challenges. Yoga trains your mind to be grounded and calm, especially while in the fire of stress. Why would anyone want to put themselves in a challenging yoga pose, hold it and be asked to stay calm and breathe deeply? Because on the battlefield of life, you will be challenged far more than you will on your yoga mat. However, by practicing to stay grounded in very uncomfortable situations, physically and otherwise, you train yourself to be at your best when it matters most.

Yoga is the fountain of youthBetween all the physical, mental and overall health benefits, yoga will make you feel better and younger than you could have ever imagined. This only happens after you commit to a regular yoga routine. Anything worth doing will take patience and time. Yoga communities consist of the young and old alike who want to better themselves and live more vibrantly. You become the company you keep. When you surround yourself with people who willfully open their bodies and minds, you become more youthful and open to trying new things.

Going to the yoga studio for the first time could be intimidating and uncomfortable. Often times it’s difficult and confusing while trying to locate the appropriate class for a guy just starting yoga. Get a strong foundation from the convenience of your home or on the go with Jake at Click here to get an intro to yoga video and sign up for a thorough, safe and comfortable start to yoga specifically designed for men.

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