Sixers using yoga at practice to stay fresh


It is hard to believe that only 46 days have passed since the first time the Sixers gathered as a whole at Saint Josephs University for training camp back on Dec. 9. In that relatively short period of time they have come to lead the Atlantic Division with their 12-5 record and they have no intention of relinquishing that hold.

Our guys want to win the Atlantic Division, there is no question about that, Doug Collins said. They want to be able to do that and they feel that is a possibility, and the guys are really focused.

Currently, the Sixers lead the Celtics by 4.5 games with New York another game behind Boston.

In an effort to help the players avoid mental fatigue during this 66-game sprint, the Sixers strength and conditioning coach Jesse Wright and trainer Kevin Johnson suggested to Collins the players do yoga on their rare practice days. The change in training has been a hit.

We have erred on the side of rest, just trying to keep our guys as mentally fresh as possible, Collins said. As a result we have had a lot of slippage in what we would like to do offensively, but I think we have the better chance to win, rather than come in and try to practice for 40 minutes we are better off letting our guys come in and relax and get a nice session of yoga while being together.

It was good for us, Andre Iguodala said. I have done yoga over the summers so I know what it can do for the body. We have so many games so stretching or release and getting the blood flowing can take your body a long way.

For a guy like Spencer Hawes, who has missed four straight games with a strained Achilles tendon, 30 minutes of yoga was heaven sent.

I went the whole time, Hawes said. It felt good. I think it is the mental relaxation of the yoga. You have a day off, you come in and rest the legs. This is much needed, too. You have to rest the mind. We have to get our chi right.

Not everyone is as yoga friendly as Hawes and Iguodala.

It is kind of like lifting but you have to use all the muscles in your body so it is like lifting your body weight. For me, I dont do that so I didnt realize how tough it is staying on your arms in downward dog, Jrue Holiday said. It is pretty tough holding the poses. The five minutes we get to lay down when we are done is pretty relaxing though.

Those five minutes are known as Savasana.

Stacy Hackett, who twice this season has taught yoga to the Sixers, has quite the challenge given that she instructs the players for 30 minutes when, generally speaking, yoga classes last for an hour. She puts a huge emphasis on flexibility.

We have some guards that can barely get their head between their legs, Iguodala said with a smile. Its crazy and then you have some bigs who are better than you think, so it is actually quite funny to watch.

When Kyle Korver was with the Sixers, Hackett greatly improved his flexibility through private yoga classes and every summer Jameer Nelson hires Hackett to teach yoga to the point guard and his Magic teammates for a week.

As for that Savasana, even in a shortened session Hackett knows the benefits of that final five minutes is mammoth in allowing the guys to step away from activity, giving the mind relaxation.

Even with the yoga training Hawes is still a game-time decision for Wednesdays matchup against the New Jersey Nets. The same can be said for Nik Vucevic. Collins said he wouldnt be surprised if Vucevic makes it back to action before Hawes.

Nik, I think is getting better, Collins said. He is able to bend that knee a little easier. But that Achilles is a very tricky thing. He is a big guy so I am not sure with that, but talking to K.J. (Johnson) I still think he is a ways away.

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