Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner, NBA, Yoga

How Myles Turner’s NBA career has benefited from doing yoga

There are many components to a successful offseason routine for an NBA player. One of the key parts to the process for Myles Turner has been the yoga that he does with his instructor in Texas.

Perhaps the most visible example of how Myles has benefited from yoga was seen last season when he was anchoring the Indiana Pacers’ defense. He averaged a league-leading 2.7 blocks per game and the team posted a third-ranked 106.0 defensive rating.

“Defensively, it helps me move laterally more easily,” Myles said. “I can easily get into my slides better and kind of move and do what I want to do. It helps me in the pick-and-roll coverage being able to drop back and whatnot. Just making more efficient movements.”

The improvement in Myles’ lateral movement was put on full display during the NBA playoffs when the Pacers faced the Boston Celtics. He was able to handle guarding players like Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown in isolation situations after switching in pick-and-roll coverage.

The defensive impact that Myles made through his ability to guard multiple positions certainly caught Irving’s attention and made him second-guess on drives and miss at the rim during games. Irving even mentioned that his ‘eyes light up’ when Myles went to the bench.

“[Myles] was making me miss at the rim, and that’s what you want to do as a shot-blocker if you can’t get a hand on it,” Kyrie Irving said. “He’s coming over every single time and there were a few plays where I’m getting to the rim and I’m wondering where Myles is coming over and he just makes me miss.”

It goes beyond just becoming a more dynamic defender for Myles. The NBA season is quite long and it’s paramount for players to find ways to help prevent injuries and recover. Both of which have been aided through yoga. It is especially critical given the extensive month of August with USA Basketball that he has scheduled before an 82 game regular season with the Indiana Pacers.

“Definitely so, as far as muscles are concerned,” Myles said. “I don’t cramp as much and my hips aren’t as tight. It’s helped with my recovery process. Being able to recover from lifting faster is an easier way to get a good workout in and to not put a lot of stress on your body.”

The yoga instructor that Myles has used since last summer, Bridget Gibbs, had a lot of wisdom to share regarding the reasons for doing yoga for a professional athlete. It goes well beyond boosting the dynamic nature of what he can do on the court.

It is crucial to address hip tightness to prevent injuries and that is a central focus of what Gibbs does with Myles. There is also an emphasis on strengthening of the core to maximize balance and working on balancing the imbalances throughout the body that may come from the repetitive nature of basketball.

“The biggest thing is that he’s a very large person, so when you’re doing a very repetitive sport you kind of restrict other areas of your body,” Gibbs said. “We see that a lot with all sports. I work with all different athletes in all different sports.”

“What we [showed at the Fort Worth FitFest] was probably at 10-percent of what he goes through in yoga practice. You saw him standing up trying to hold his leg up in the air. That kind of focus and balance takes a lot and then the core and all that stuff, not having injuries. With tight hips is another thing that I see in a lot of athletes, it’s not a matter of if you will get injured, it’s a matter of when. We want to make sure that everything is strengthened and lengthened.”

A priority for Gibbs has been a breathing technique called diaphragmatic breathing. There are common beliefs that this method helps to improve core muscle stability and makes breathing more efficient. It also reduces the chances of injuring muscles and that strengthens the body’s tolerance for vigorous activities as a result.

“A lot of things that I work on with him is diaphragmatic breathing,” Gibbs said. “We work on extending his breath longer because if you lose your diaphragm, you lose 50-percent of your legs whether they are tired or not. Another thing is being able to be comfortable being uncomfortable, which is a lot of what I teach.”

Managing to stay fresh is vital for Myles because of the nature of how physically taxing his schedule is going to be beginning next month. The use of his heart rate variable has been key for Gibbs to monitor his body to avoid potential overtraining.

“Another thing that I have been hounding him about is his heart rate variable,” Gibbs said. “Especially when he’s in the offseason, he’s training quite a bit. Overtraining can be worse than undertraining, so I want him to take a step back and try to focus on what’s going on in his body so he will be able to recover quicker and not risk injuries.”

Since Myles is not a beginner like he was at the beginning of last summer, they haven’t had to work on the fundamentals of poses. Instead, they have been able to work on his breathing and clearing his mind, both of which are quite important for an NBA player.

Some of what Myles is able to do now in terms of poses has become quite remarkable, in general, but especially for someone of his size. Gibbs mentioned that she still gets surprised with what he is able to do when they are working together.

While it took some time at first, yoga has become one of Myles’ favorite off-court activities. It is easy to understand why given how helpful it has become for his NBA career.