During his career in the NFL (1996-2004), Eddie George did things no other player did—because he trained in a way no other player trained.
George is the only player in NFL history to record more than 300 carries per season for eight straight seasons, making him the pure personification of a workhorse running back. But despite all those rushes—and the pounding that came with them—George never missed a game due to injury. He had 130 consecutive starts.
George credits his incredible durability to a then unheard-of (but now far more popular) training technique—yoga.
RELATED: Eddie George’s New Yoga Video
“I believe that [yoga] truly helped my longevity in the league, and it let me play the position that I played for as long as I played it,” George says.
George’s first foray into yoga practice came during his 1997 season with the Tennessee Oilers (now the Titans). He was a beast in the weight room, but he wanted something that would keep him loose and limber. The team’s strength coach, Steve Watterson, pointed him toward Nashville-based yoga instructor Hilary Lindsey.
George discovered that yoga worked his body in totally different ways. He says, “For football players, we’re always running and moving linearly. It gives you tight hips, IT bands, quads and hamstrings. But yoga addresses the total body.”
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George began practicing yoga twice per week—once on Saturday (the day before games), and once on Monday (the day after them). He says the benefits were physical and mental, and both aspects helped him in games. He says, “I’d find myself in compromising positions on the field, but my body was used to being in those types of positions, so it’d just go with the flow instead of resist it. Even when I wasn’t dealing with the physical stress, yoga helped me deal with the emotional stress when games weren’t going our way. When I would be in a tight spot, like after fumbling a football, I would breathe to get back into my body, to get back into my center. It helped me let that moment go, learn from it and to move on.”
Eddie George’s 8-Move Yoga Routine for Recovery
Football players and other athletes can give their bodies and minds a recovery boost by performing the following 8-move workout. Favored by George, the workout was designed by yoga instructor Kent Katich. (To see a video of George and Katich demonstrating the complete routine, visit this page.)
Hold each move for 30 to 40 seconds—or as long as it feels right. Within 10 minutes, the circuit can help you feel better and move more freely. It can also help you bounce back from anything, whether it was a tough game on the gridiron or a rough week at work.
Let your head drop and keep your feet relaxed.
Begin lying on your back. Keeping your back on the floor, bring your knees toward your chest and wrap your hands under your knees. Let your head drop, relax your feet and let gravity do the work. Take a few slow deep breaths and look at the ceiling. “This gets the legs up and begins flushing them out a bit,” Katich says.
Keep your left leg straight and on the mat.
Keep your right arm as close to the floor as possible.
From Reclining Child pose, release your hands and straighten your legs. Wrap your hands below your right knee and pull it toward your chest. Keep left leg straight and flat on the ground by pressing the back of your left knee into the mat. Hold for a few deep breaths.
Next, remove your right hand and extend your right arm onto the floor next to you. Pull your right knee out to the side and hold for a few deep breaths.
Finally, pull your right knee across your body with your left hand. Focus on keeping your right arm on the ground. Hold for a few deep breaths, then repeat the sequence on the opposite side.
Thread the Needle
Grasp your hands under your left knee (“threading” your right hand beneath your right leg) and pull it toward your chest.
After the Hip Openers, straighten your legs in front of you. Bend your right knee and press your right ankle above your left knee. Grasp your hands under your left knee (“threading” your right hand beneath your right leg) and pull it toward your chest. Flex the top of your right foot. Relax your head and let it drop. “This is getting into the hips and the piriformis muscle,” Katich says. “This one’s okay to stay in for between 30 and 60 seconds.”
RELATED: Need more visual cues? Watch George and Katich demonstrate these moves.
Once you’ve had your fill, take your hands off your knee. Roll your right foot toward the floor, keeping it in contact above your left knee. Try to get your right foot to the floor (or close to it), while keeping your upper body flat on the floor. Hold for a few deep breaths, then repeat the sequence on the opposite side.
Use the weight of your arms to help you slowly open your knees.
After Thread the Needle, return to a lying position. Bring your knees up and place your wrists inside them. Press your knees out to stretch your groin. Keep your head relaxed and take a few deep breaths. “Nothing is intended to be hard about this routine,” Katich says. “It’s meant to get the blood circulating and give you a good stretch.”
Focus on pressing your belly down and keeping your low back on the mat.
Out of Groin Opener, enter Happy Baby with your elbows inside your knees and your hands grabbing the outside of your feet. Try to work your feet over your knees if possible. Imagine you’re pressing your belly into the floor, and focus on lengthening your spine. Take a few deep breaths.
Half Happy Baby
As you move your right leg out to the side, focus on keeping your left leg flat on the mat.
Out of Happy Baby, release your left hand and straighten your left leg. Pull your right leg out to the side, while focusing on keeping your left leg straight and pressed down toward the mat. When you reach a good stretch point, take a few deep breaths, then perform the sequence on the opposite side.
Lower your heels towards your butt to accentuate this stretch.
Return to Happy Baby pose. Spread your knees apart and press the bottoms of your feet together. Lower your heels toward your butt and keep your shoulders down. When you feel a good stretch, take a few deep breaths. “The deeper you get into this, the more you’ll be able to work your shoulders into the ground,” Katich says.
Continue to breathe in the top position.
From Reclining Cobbler, release your feet and press them into the matt slightly below your knees. Hold the sides of the mat and elevate your hips. Lift your butt up and tuck your shoulders underneath you. Try to keep your knees over your toes. Fill your belly with deep breaths. Continue to extend your hips.
RELATED: See George’s and Katich’s Full Routine