When Parrish began practicing yoga in intense heat, he saw others faint. No sweat. He persevered -- and honed one of the NFL's strongest cores
Tony Parrish TEAM: San Francisco 49ers POSITION: Safety HEIGHT: 6 feet WEIGHT 210 pounds
"The first class was hard -- I've never been in a room so hot for so long," says Tony Parrish, about his introduction three months ago to Bikram yoga, in which students assume 26 poses in 90áminutes in a room heated to 110░ to promote flexibility. Parrish stuck with it, and hot yoga became a staple of his core training regimen. "We tend to bend forward on the field but never do any real backward stretching to counteract that," he says. "To get into and hold each [yoga] position works your abs. My lower back and spine have also gotten stronger and more flexible."
Until the start of training camp, Parrish practiced three times a week at the Bikram Yoga center in Santa Clara, Calif. "I kept coming and got accustomed to it," he says. Parrish, who broke his left ankle and fibula in a game against the Bears last November, says yoga helps him "trust" the injured leg, delivers a "great aerobic workout" -- and builds his core: "I had abs that looked decent but weren't strong. Now there's strength behind them." Here he demonstrates seven poses, breathing evenly through the nose (except when specified otherwise). In trying these exercises, stick to form as closely as possible. Abhinav Sagar, a teacher at the center, describes the benefits of the poses, which are particular to the Bikram philosophy.
POSTURE: Feet should be hip distance apart, heels raised, arms straight out, palms down. Squat as if sitting in a chair. Hold for 10ácounts, return to starting position. Repeat. ABHINAV SAGAR: "You engage your core for balance. Also strengthens thighs and calves and opens hip flexors."
POSTURE: Lie on belly with chin on mat. Put arms underneath body, palms on floor. Raise right leg as high as you can, behind you. Hold for 10 counts. Return to starting position and switch legs. Return to starting position and raise both legs and hips off floor as high as you can and hold for 10ácounts. Lower legs and rest on stomach. 20áseconds, face to one side. Repeat all three positions. SAGAR: "This increases flexibility in the spine and stretches your abdominals."
POSTURE: Standing with feet together, raise arms straight up and clasp hands with index fingers pointing up. Step left foot forward two feet, keeping it straight. Point right foot behind you, keeping foot on floor. Bend forward until chest and arms are parallel to floor while also raising right leg behind you until parallel to floor, making a T with body. Hold for 10 counts, return to start position, switch legs. Do two times, each side. SAGAR: "You primarily engage your abdomen in this pose, as well as all your leg muscles. You also develop muscle tone in the shoulders."