Written just before the Giants won the Superbowl:
Yoga Expert Bends Giants players
Source: New York Post • Jennifer Gould Keil • February 5, 2012
STRIKE A POSE: Giants yoga instructor Gwen Lawrence works with offensive linemen Chris Snee.
She’s got the Giants all tied up in knots — and they’re paying her to do it.
The New York Giants‘ biggest bruisers may have a yoga instructor to thank if they manage to bend the events at Lucas Oil Stadium in their favor Sunday.
Gwen Lawrence, who has been on Big Blue’s payroll since 2004, has been whipping the players into shape for game day by coaxing them into pretzel-like positions, such as downward dog, tree and frog.
“It’s a very demanding form of exercise that includes balance strength, flexibility, mental toughness, focus, and proper breathing,” Lawrence said ahead of Super Bowl XLVI.
Yoga is also a key to preventing injuries and especially to protecting star quarterback Eli Manning on the field, she said.
“Pro athletes of all types see that it will improve their health and longevity on the field of play,” Lawrence said.
She was introduced to the team by gridiron great Frank Gifford after spending years as a personal yoga teacher for his feisty TV star wife, Kathie Lee Gifford, who still calls Lawrence, “a dear friend.”
Lawrence’s yoga classes are mandatory for Giants rookies, and optional for the vets, though many of them go regularly, including Manning, who she calls, “nice, smart, and really flexible.”
In her classes at the Giants’ Meadowlands facility, Lawrence focuses on teaching poses to help players recover after especially hard-hitting games, and offers yoga assignments for the players to take home and practice all week.
She said she adjusts her routines based on the players who show up — an offensive lineman has different needs and a different body type than an acrobatic, agile wide receiver.
Each of Big Blue’s stars have a different favorite pose, Lawrence said.
Facedown Shoulder Opener: “This pose opens the chest, the front of the deltoids (shoulders) and stretches the biceps,” Lawrence says. “Stretching the shoulders is important for a lot of the players, and this poses works on all the muscles that surround the joint, which will strengthen the joint.”
Plank pose with wrists turned: Plank pose requires players to point their fingers down to 6 o’clock instead of the usual 12 o’clock to open up the wrists. “This is essential for core strength, and it’s great to help wrists absorb shock, which is important not only for linemen who are pushing, but also for a receiver who’s going to fall hard on his wrists,” she said.
Hero pose with toes tucked under: “Tuck your toes under in heroes pose to stretch the Achilles tendon, calf, and foot,” she said. “This will help build supple, flexible ankles and help prevent foot pain.”
Frog pose: “This poses stretches the groin and inner thighs,” Lawrence said. “When I do it with the Giants, it’s a 5-to-10 minute pose. It’s important to remember that your flexibility won’t improve unless you push yourself.”
Pigeon pose: The classic hip-opening pose, pigeon pose is a valuable stretch for any exerciser. “Studies show that the more open and flexible the hips are, the less stress you put on the body’s weakest joint — the knee,” Lawrence said.