by Jasmine Morales/ @msjulyy

Last week SLAMonline had the privilege of joining a yoga class with the youth basketball players from Above The Rim. The ATR Project is in partnership with Hoops By The River, a youth-based organization dedicated to developing youth basketball players from the Harlem area.

The purpose of the yoga class was not only to show young athletes how the professionals work out, it was also to introduce them to something different that could not only help them physically, but also mentally. “The thinking behind this initiative was to expose young basketball players to things other than basketball. We wanted to expose their thinking to other things they can do off the court,” said ATR brand manager Cesar Vizcarondo.

As these players were introduced to a new way of working out, observers couldn’t help but laugh at their comments and faces as their bodies were stretched to their ultimate limits. One player jokingly said to his coach, “This is harder than them 1,000 suicides and 300 pushups you make us do.”

As the class finished up, most of the players were surprised at the amount of relaxation they felt within their bodies as well as their minds. “The class was helpful because it put my mind and body at the same pace, now if I move with the ball I will know what to do before a defender comes up to me because I have more focus on what I’m doing,” said Cory Garrett Jr of the ATR Harlem Jazz.

So how does yoga help these players out in the long run? “It’s no secret that every NBA team has a yoga instructor on staff. It is important they learn these techniques now so they can get used to stretching their bodies. If they eventually want to make the NBA by learning yoga, they will be extremely advanced by the time they get to the college level,” said Vizcarondo.