Bears’ coach poses gentler idea to team

Cambridge High School football team adds yoga to workout regimen

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MILTON, Ga. – When it comes to football, Cambridge High School varsity coach Craig Bennett wants his players to quiet their minds, focus their attention inwardly and visualize success.

After all, it worked for the Seattle Seahawks, the 2014 Super Bowl champions.

“We want our players in the best shape possible and that’s not just about being fast and building muscle,” Bennett said.

The coach enlisted the assistance of Lift Yoga Therapy owner Kim Saunders and yoga instructor Irina Burlack to hold yoga classes for the varsity football team.

“It’s about balance,” Bennett said. “With all that lifting, the boys’ muscles tighten and we want to improve their flexibility, which will help prevent injury.”

Bennett said he’s seen the success of NFL teams who practice yoga.

“The Seattle Seahawks and the Stanford Cardinals use yoga as part of their training program to improve performance,” Bennett said. “And it’s working.”

He said the 2014 Super Bowl also helped him make the decision.

“The players were all about yoga,” Bennett said. “And I thought that because of that, our team would be open to the idea.”

So far, the players have had four yoga sessions, including tapes when the instructors aren’t present.

“We hope to make this a year-long event,” Bennett said. “And the boys are enjoying it.”

Saunders said the players lead busy lives, and she wanted to give them a mental vacation as well as improve their overall fitness.

“Yoga benefits them not only physically, but mentally,” Saunders said. “It improves their overall awareness, and that’s important to an athlete.”

Saunders said professional athletes often use yoga to visualize success and enhance sports performance.

Bennett said football isn’t just a physical sport, and he wants the team to be prepared mentally, too.

“Anything we can do to improve the game and keep our team healthy both physically and mentally, we’re open to trying,” he said.

MH 03-05-14