Yoga for NRL players? William Zillman does Yoga? Isn’t yoga stereotypically for part-time hippies, who are in touch with their sensitive side and on a search for mindfulness?

It would seem the truth is quite the contrary. Yoga is rapidly emerging as a mainstream regime practiced by a variety of people as a way to sustain a balanced lifestyle. Even The Gold Coast Titans are incorporating challenging sessions of a unique brand of yoga to enhance their game and gain the edge over their competitors.

In fact, yoga has been utilised by professional football teams in the US for many years as an effective tool to increase flexibility, reduce injury and increase mental concentration.

Ian Cariaga, an elite athlete himself, experienced first hand that yoga can dramatically enhance your sports training and also change your life. After a disabling snowboarding accident and lingering lower back issues, Ian listened to a friend’s advice and tried yoga.

Soon Ian’s injuries began to improve and he was once again building his core strength while balancing his spiritual side. Ian says that he became addicted to the sensation of accomplishment and strength.

Excited about how dramatic yoga’s benefits had been for him, Ian incorporated his years of sports training and devised a dynamic flow of yoga moves that are designed for those people with a sporting background who are looking for something more challenging and energising.

There are three very important elements for a great yoga class according to Ian. Essentially the class must be fun and instil happiness and joy within you. Secondly the class must not only result in psychical strength but also stimulate your spiritual and mental senses. Thirdly and most importantly the class must challenge and empower you.

Ian has been instructing the Titans in yoga since May 2013. Yoga assists the players not only in recovery from injury and provides a myriad of physical benefits but also manages to gravitate their minds away from their ‘game mindset’. This is necessary Ian explains, because all the heated emotion and aggression the players store within their muscles – necessary on field – can be released through yoga moves in a safe environment.

The yoga also supports their game by promoting greater flexibility, balance, focus and strength.

Yoga is benefiting the players off and on the field and the best part is they seem to enjoy it!

I spoke with William Zillman who’s been playing with the Titans since 2009, after a power yoga training session at their state of the art training facility at Robina.

How do you feel after the yoga?

Nice and loose, my muscles feel good so its always a good session to have after a couple of hard days training.

Had you done yoga before Ian’s classes with the team?

Actually I have done a bit of Bikram yoga and some other styles but Ian’s is definitely the most challenging and therapeutic I have done.

What are the benefits in your opinion that the team have derived from the yoga training sessions?

The training that we do is so hard especially at this time of the year. Having sore muscles that are also tight can really lead to a lot of injuries.  This is probably close to our most important session of the week. It’s a chance for us to loosen up and mobilise our joints and it really does help to prevent all kinds of injuries. In our game that is a massive plus. It’s also very helpful in gaining more flexibility and balance.

How do you feel after a yoga session with Ian in comparison to other types of workouts?  Is it different?

Yes, definitely. By doing our yoga session I always feel a lot better the next day in comparison to a couple of hard sessions where you wake up quite sore and tight and your joints are aching. This mobilising of the joints and loosening up really especially helps in recovery the next day.

Do you find that the relaxing aspects of poses such as the corpse pose at the end of the practice, lying down on your back in a still position help with mental strength and preparation for your games?

Yeah, it’s a way to sort of wind down. Most of the guys are probably still thinking of football, but its great way to relax and find yourself and really go a bit deeper into the thinking process.

And do you enjoy doing the yoga?

Yeah, I do. I definitely enjoy it yes. It’s certainly a good feeling when you are finished. Your body feels a lot better and it certainly helps us all.

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