Mustang Diamondmen Find Inner Strength
By DENNIS D. CRUZ
As spring gets ready to return, this also means the return of baseball. Around this time of year, high school baseball teams hit the diamond and work on pitching, fielding batting and endurance. Oakdale’s varsity baseball team is doing these things but has also taken on a new offseason workout: Yoga.
Once a week, the team heads down to Koru Power Yoga Studio of Oakdale for a one-hour session with instructor Korin Wallace.
“Yoga is an incredible tool for encouraging students, athletes, and people to tap their potential not only in their sport but also in every area of their lives. The Baptiste methodology focuses on the person as a whole. We use yoga practice, meditation, and self-injury to awaken ourselves to any limitations we may be putting on ourselves physically, mentally and/or emotionally,” Wallace noted. “The potent physical yoga practice will prepare the athletes physically by allowing them to build natural strength, reclaim flexibility, release toxins and cultivate healthy bone alignment. All of these elements are necessary to keep the body powerful and injury free.”
It might not be the workout many coaches aspire to, but for the Mustangs, it seems to be just what the doctor ordered.
“The tools of gaze and breath will help prepare these athletes mentally for the difficulties that may arise on the field and in their life throughout the season. These tools encourage focus under pressure and perseverance,” Wallace added of the benefits of practicing yoga as part of their regime. “Participating in these practices as a group encourages the athletes to embody a team commitment together by stepping outside of their comfort zones and committing to personal growth as athletes and people.”
Wallace opened Koru Power Yoga Studio in Oakdale in January of 2012 and this is the first season the studio and the baseball team have paired up, although the baseball program has branched out to other unique preseason workouts in the past.
“Years ago we (the baseball program) did the P90X version and (then) Coach Hondo Arpoika used to have a less strenuous version for game days,” third-year varsity head coach Nate Gregory said.
Gregory and Wallace are brother and sister and have been discussing the possibility of collaborating on yoga and baseball for quite some time.
“My sister and I have been discussing this for a couple of years and I finally decided to commit to implementing it on a weekly basis,” Gregory explained. “Korin knows the value from her own playing career and has me convinced this is more beneficial than some of the same old workouts.”
Wallace played softball at San Diego State University, and said she wished she had yoga available to help her with her potential to be a more athletic player.
“I myself was a Division 1 collegiate athlete at San Diego State University who struggled with the mental aspect of that next level of play,” she admitted. “I know for certain that these practices would have facilitated me in tapping my potential as an athlete at that level. I did not have these practices available to me which is why I am so excited to share them with athletes now.”
For teenage boys to go to a yoga studio and perform difficult stretches and positions to “get the kinks out” can be a strange new environment but the team has taken a liking to it and has been drawn closer as a team for it, said their coach.
“When the announcement of this is what we as a team were going to be doing, my initial thought was ‘This is something that is going to benefit us as a team’ because of the difficulty of yoga,” said first-year varsity player Jordan Williams. “Coach Gregory has great ideas for us this season, and yoga was a great idea. It might seem to be a strange thing for baseball players to do, but just a few minutes into it, the team took to it and we look forward to continue doing it.”
Williams also pointed out the most difficult part of each session includes full focus from both breathing and allowing your body to relax including the muscles.
Wallace has been teaching yoga since 2006 after she completed 200 hours of training with the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute.
“The overall importance of practicing yoga is to allow us to become aware of how we are currently operating in our lives. To become aware of how our body feels and how our actions affect our bodies,” Wallace said. “The goal of yoga is to take this newfound awareness and use it to make the changes necessary to transform into a healthy and whole person on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”