Off days during the NBA season are an opportunity to relax and regroup after a grueling game. Dallas Mavericks point guard Deron Williams has found a new place to do that. He steps away from the basketball court and into a place of rejuvenation: a yoga studio.
Williams first tried yoga three years ago. Last season he became more consistent, motivated by former Brooklyn Nets teammate Joe Johnson, who Williams says does hot yoga nearly daily. The realization of this interest was important to Williams. He has been sidelined by injuries throughout his 11-year career, and at 31 years old wants to combat the effects of wear and tear.
“It’s something I feel that’s helped me,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “I’ve had a lot of issues with my ankles hurting, just joints in general hurting as you get older and have miles on your body. It helps me not only physically, but mentally.”
Williams had to curb his yoga activities last season after suffering a fractured rib. This season, he attends hot yoga classes three times a week. His favorite pose is the tripod headstand.
“I’m still battling little nagging injuries,” Williams said as he unwrapped bags of ice from his knees following the Mavericks’ comeback win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. “The days I feel really tight and stiff and sore and old, if I get a yoga session in it helps me feel better. I feel more loose. You get a nice sweat and get all the toxins out of your body.”
When on the road, Williams identifies yoga studios with the MINDBODY Connect app. He used it Tuesday to find a location in Boston. He often goes to classes with head athletic trainer Casey Smith and assistant coach Jamahl Mosley. Williams isn’t the only player on the Mavs doing yoga, either.
Zaza Pachulia, John Jenkins and Justin Anderson also frequently attend classes. Pachulia said four players went together in Philadelphia prior to Monday’s game against the 76ers and at one point this season a group of 10 or 11 went to a class in Dallas.
“We shut the place down,” he said with a laugh.
Pachulia started to do yoga during his time with the Atlanta Hawks when an athletic trainer brought in an instructor on an off day. At 6’11, 275-pounds, Pachulia admits he had challenges with the poses at first but got better over time.
“In the beginning it’s kind of hard, but once you do it consistently, you work on your balance as well,” said the 13-year veteran, who recently switched to hot yoga. “It really helps you on the court, on your jump shots, on your free throws. All the balance is a huge part of basketball. It’s really useful. It’s not just physical, it’s mental too. You get to relax and forget about all the things that are going on. It’s so peaceful.”
Jenkins was introduced to hot yoga before entering the NBA. He had heard about the benefits prior to the 2012 Draft and was open to trying it. Since then, he has found himself moving better on the court. Like Williams, he attends three classes a week that range from 60 to 75 minutes.
“Anything to get an advantage or help my game, I was willing to do,” Jenkins explained. “I love getting a sweat and I feel like once you’re in there it’s a great workout.”
Jenkins prefers the down dog pose to help his hamstrings and calves. He also uses some of the breathing techniques from the classes to establish a sense of calm before games.
While several of the Mavericks are actively involved in yoga, they look to one player as their expert: Williams.
Jenkins commented on Williams’ knowledge of the terminology; Pachulia said he goes to Williams for suggestions on equipment, such as mats for those on the taller side. Their point guard is their point person on the topic.
Said Williams: “You just feel better afterwards.”