The intent was to increase his flexibility and rid himself of some of the tightness that seemed to plague him during the season. The hope was increased flexibility would pay dividends, chief among them helping to stave off injury.
“ Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and Bryce Harper also are among yoga devotees, with Harper and Storen big believers in Espinosa’s preferred Bikram yoga — a class that’s held in a room kept at 115 degrees.
“It’s very challenging if you’ve never done it before,”
said Philbin, who has taken Bikram yoga classes with Storen this spring and usually tests out any new workouts the players bring to him to ensure they’re not doing something that could be injurious.
The players go through flexibility exercises each day during the team stretch, but that doesn’t necessarily ensure they’re paying as much attention to that aspect of their conditioning as they should. Adding yoga to the picture increases that likelihood.
“They get into some very, very challenging positions that would challenge any athlete at any level,” Philbin said. “But I think the biggest benefit is that they’re actually working on flexibility, which is critical.”
Not everyone is a believer.
One Nationals player, when asked this week if he’d ever tried yoga, shook his head defiantly and said he’d go with the response he once heard from ESPN’s Colin Cowherd: “If yoga had been invented in Ohio, they’d call it stretching.”
And Harper, who began doing it with his father, Ron, to help loosen the hamstrings and quad muscles that seemed constantly tight after his years as a catcher in high school and college, highlighted the attention it’s helped him pay to his breathing.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that people don’t really know, especially when you’re doing the Bikram,” said Harper, who would do it three or four times a week in the offseason. “You’ve got to focus on your breathing, and it really helps you out when you’re playing. … I saw major improvements in my flexibility. I felt a little faster, more limber, it was pretty cool.”