The Scoop on Yoga 3 – Lebron James, Fidel Castro and…Hitler???


The Sport and Politics of Modern Yoga

In the Scoop on Yoga Part Two we looked at certain celebrities, actors and recording artists, who depend on yoga for balancing their performances and their lives. And if you missed Part One’s video yoga funnies,you’re in for a belly laugh when you watch it now!  Today’s offering in the series The Scoop on Yoga will look at other kinds of celebrities, specifically those who compete in both sports and political arenas.


We’ll begin with those who already push their body in the spirit of competition and athleticism. Not too long ago, yoga was thought to be reserved for the New Age, Earthy-Crunchy, and Flower Child. These days though, many athletes, whether professional, amateur, or hobbyist, realize that Yoga can do wonders with not only muscle flexibility, but mental pliability. These men and women know that Yoga can help wrap their focus around what they need to do in the crucial moments of any sports contest.

We must begin with a hometown favorite. Professional basketball player Kevin Garnett (or KG, as us Boston Celtics fans call him) has been practicing Yoga since 1995. According to the book Real Men do Yoga by John Capouya, KG said, “Yoga helps me calm down and helps me center my energy so I’m balanced instead of going out there and just spreading my energy all over the court. I’m zeroed in on the game and have my mind set on what I need to do.”

Another US basketball star, LeBron James has been a big fan of Yoga. Even in the recent NBA finals, after suffering from severe leg cramps in Game 1, he added Yoga to his morning regimen for the next game, along with better hydration. In a 2009 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer – on Yoga in general, – James said, “Yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind and it’s a technique that has really helped me,”

Soccer and Rugby

For training, footballers will “bend it like Beckham” as well. In fact, former Manchester United star David Beckham has spoken about the benefits of Yoga, and how he was able to prolong his career with the practice. And New Zealand’s own All Blacks have made Yoga part of their training, as well as the Wellington Hurricanes and NSW Waratahs.

Yoga at The White House

Moving away from the sports world to the political field finds a diverse group of practitioners of the Yogic Arts, beginning with Richard Nixon. In 1972 this former US president, who reportedly tried yoga to help with some phlebitis in his legs, was taught by none other than Bikram Choudhury.

Another more recent notable US leader is Former President Bill Clinton. He and former First Lady and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made yoga practice a part of their regular routine. Mrs. Clinton especially says that yoga gives her the stamina she could possibly need if she were to run for the top job herself in 2016 – but she has not publically announced any candidacy.

Evidently the White House is still yoga-friendly. During the 2013 Easter Egg Roll, the schedule included a “Yoga Garden,” where everyone was encouraged towards a healthy lifestyle, including lessons from certified Yoga instructors.

There are another couple of global leaders linked with yoga, but these names don’t immediately seem to belong in the same sentence as yoga, let alone the same story.

Fidel Castro Strikes a Pose?

Fidel Castro, the former Communist revolutionary and leader of Cuba stated in 2012 that

“The Yogas do things with the human body that escape our imagination. They are there, before our eyes, through images that arrive instantaneously from enormous distances, through ‘Voyage to the Unknown.’”

This sentiment was published in Cuba’s newspaper Grandma, but there was no mention whether Castro actually practices Yoga himself. Still, from all accounts he encouraged others to practice.

Yoga without Discrimination

Another famous name in history was someone who was also maybe more interested in the theory, history and mysticism of Yoga than the actual practice was Heinrich Himmler.  London’s Telegraph reported in 2012 that the Holocaust architect carried a text on the Bhagavad Gita around with him. The article also reported that other Nazi leaders felt that Yoga would be a good tool in German military training. Amazing!

Coming Up in The Scoop on Yoga

The next enlightening read will cover a little more of that theory, history, and mysticism as we look at beloved Yogis who helped develop the practice throughout the last several hundred years.

Yogasync Me!  Want to improve your mental agility, physicality and all round performance now?  Start here with sports specific training for body and mind:

Yoga for Basketball

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About Mary Williams

Mary is Boston-based writer and essayist. While she holds a first dan (first degree black belt) in Kenpo Karate, Mary is a beginner at Yoga. She was introduced to the art several years ago and has come back to the mat in the last half of 2013, attempting the practice twice a week. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and her work can be found at, Cinema,, Metronome Magazine and her own blog. Mary has written numerous entertainment reviews of film, books, music and TV, plus many essays on life and pop culture and is currently writing a book, Driving Home from Boston, Twelve Ways to Navigate Crisis. She lives with her husband, two sons, and one entitled cat.

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