Although it's been more than a decade since Eddie George left professional football, his physique still looks fit enough to earn him a spot in an NFL backfield. The 42-year old George has not let retirement stop him from training like a pro, and though his fitness regimen combines several methods and styles, yoga plays a bigger role than people might expect.
"I'm always doing something to push my body," George says. "[With yoga,] there are always new poses I can try to get into. I try to push myself, not to the point where it's hurting my body, but to where I'm on that edge."
George has been a yogi since his playing days, beginning with his 1997 rookie season with the Tennessee Oilers (now the Titans). He could lift enormous amounts of weight in the gym, but one session with Nashville-based yoga instructor Hilary Lindsay revealed weak spots in his body that he didn't know existed.
"When I first got into a Down Dog, I couldn't hold myself there for more than 10 seconds," George says. "Here I was benching 400 pounds and squatting 500 pounds, but I couldn't even support my own body weight for more than 10 seconds."
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Some athletes might have gotten frustrated by this ego check, but George took it as a wake-up call and embraced the challenge. "It made me think, 'This is something I want to get good at.'" he says.
There are many stories of NFL vets who wake up each morning to a symphony of creaking joints and cracking bones as they step out of bed. After an eight-season career that featured 2,865 rushing attempts—14th most in NFL history—George would have seemed to be a prime candidate to suffer such aches and pains. He was a workhorse running back who took and delivered countless hits. Yet he claims he feels as spry now as he did two decades ago, and he credits that to yoga.
George practices yoga twice a week, mixing up the specific routine he performs regularly. When he wants a strength workout, he turns to more powerful forms with a lot of flow. On other days, when he wants to relax and refocus, he does Kundalini yoga, a discipline that focuses heavily on breathing and meditation. It all depends on how he feels on a given day.
"I'm not married to one train of thought or philosophy when it comes to yoga. I'm open to new experiences," he says.
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To George, the most rewarding things about yoga are pushing his personal boundaries and developing a deeper sense of inner peace with who he is. The Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl runner-up likes the fact that when he's on the mat, nobody is keeping score. "There's no competition in yoga but yourself," he says. "It's about going to your personal edges and breathing and releasing what is no longer needed physically, mentally and spiritually."
Eddie George's 6-Move Yoga Routine for Strength
George and yoga instructor Kent Katich recently documented some of their most powerful yoga routines in a series of online videos. The videos are helpful for anyone looking to start practicing yoga, and they include sequences geared toward a variety of goals, including improving recovery, building power and developing endurance. This six-move routine builds full-body strength.
Upward Facing Dog
Begin in a Push-Up position with your hands flat on the mat. Slowly lower yourself toward the mat, keeping your elbows close to your body. When you're nearly at the ground, bend your torso up and move slightly forward. Allow your hips to fall toward the floor, press the top of your feet into the mat and relax your low back.
Downward Facing Dog
From Upward Facing Dog, lift your hips off the ground and get back on your toes. Continue to pull your hips back and up toward the ceiling while keeping your hands firmly planted on the mat. Tuck your head in as you move. "This is a whole-body pose that works your hands, shoulders, calves, lower back, feet—everything, really," Katich says.
From Down Dog, pull your hips toward the ground and get into the top position of a Push-Up. Keeping your left palm firmly on the ground, open your right hip and lift your right hand toward the ceiling. Stack your right foot on top of your left foot.
Once you feel stable, raise your right arm over your head. "This is an underestimated pose; it's really challenging," Katich says. "You're incorporating strength, stability and balance. You want to keep your hips lifted to engage your obliques."
Single-Leg Down Dog with Knee Tucks
From Side Plank, slowly place your right hand and foot back on the mat. Pull your hips toward the ceiling to get into Downward Facing Dog. Elevate your right leg so it forms a straight line with your torso. Keeping your palms firmly on the mat, slowly lift your right knee to your right elbow. Return your right leg to the starting position, then pull it toward the middle of your chest. Return your right leg to the starting position again, then lift your right knee to your left elbow. Return to Downward Facing Dog.
From Single-Leg Down Dog, slowly bring your right foot underneath you and place it inside your right hand. Place your right elbow on top of your right knee and raise your torso, allowing your chest to open. Raise your left arm above your head to finish the pose. "This disperses some of the tension you have in your upper-body from the last pose and opens up your hips," Katich says.
From Side Angle pose, raise your right arm so both hands are level with your shoulders. Pinch your shoulder blades slightly and broaden your chest. Keep your right knee over your middle toe and your eyes focused in front overtop your middle finger. Keep both feet flat on the ground. "This will tone your arms if you focus on keeping them up at shoulder-height. They will feel heavy after doing those other poses," Katich says.
One completed, repeat the sequence and perform the relevant poses on the opposite side.
Want to see video of these moves and more? See George and Katich demonstrate their yoga routine here.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock