For most people, yoga isn’t an activity synonymous with football.
Cameron Svihla doesn’t think like most people.
Foley’s senior defensive/offensive lineman heads to the wrestling room, by himself or whomever wants to tag along, and settles in for a yoga session to cap off a football practice once each week.
“It’s just a good stretch,” Svihla said. “We stretch after practice, but we don’t do 20-25 minutes of stretching.
“After big lifts, I’m not as tired and worn down. I don’t know if it’s all yoga, but I found out after a while that I felt better after doing it.”
As defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, yoga is “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being” that comes from Hindu philosophy now used widely in Western Culture.
But for football players? Svihla wasn’t exactly sold on the whole yoga thing at first, either.
“I thought it was stupid at first, but I tried it,” said Svihla, also Foley’s kickoff specialist.
Cory Svihla, Cameron’s brother and a personal trainer at Lifetime Fitness in the Twin Cities, recommended yoga to Cameron because football players at all levels use yoga for flexibility.
So far, Cameron Svihla is seeing progress in his own abilities and he credits yoga as a big reason why.
“I felt a lot more recovered and I wasn’t so worn down after practice or a big lift,” Svihla said. “I got more flexible and I noticed I got faster in my 40 (yard dash) times and agility drills.”
Different players have joined Svihla for yoga sessions, but the exercise is growing on wide receiver/running back Tyler Beehler, especially.
“I’m all about trying new things and after a while you just start to feel great afterwards,” Beehler said. “After a hard day of training or a heavy lift, you do yoga and you loosen up and you feel like you didn’t even work out.”
Beehler said he thought yoga was boring at first but noted that “it just takes a lot of patience.”
“We have a pretty structured weight-training program and (Svihla) wanted to use a program that his brother used,” Falcons coach Larry Herm said. “I told him it would be a lot of work to do both.”
But, Herm was reminded of Svihla’s tireless work ethic when Herm walked into the gym for morning workout sessions.
“He chose to come in before our workouts at 6 a.m. and he’d be working out by the time everyone else got there,” Herm said. “He’s made a lot of strides in his workout. He’s gained strength and power. Hopefully as our season goes on, the work he’s put in will make a big effect.”
After a season-opening 38-8 win at International Falls, the Falcons are looking to rebound after losses to No. 6 Becker (46-7) and Dassel-Cokato (40-18).
Foley plays host to Mora at 7 p.m. Friday.
A senior and third-year starter, Herm said Svihla has leadership qualities that would make a good captain for the Falcons but Herm doesn’t issue that title out to individuals.
“(Not naming specific captains) allows leadership characteristics to bubble out of all our players,” Herm said. “Sometimes when you have captains, other players who aren’t captains might feel they can’t be leaders.
“Cameron is a leader on the field, a leader on the weight room and a leader in the hallway.”
And maybe on the yoga mat, too.
Svihla said he never really had to take a whole lot of verbal jabs from his teammates at his yoga routine.
“At first, when it was just me doing it, I heard it a little bit,” Svihla said. “Once Tyler started doing it, not as much.”
He uses the exercise strictly for stretching and not for mind control or spiritual reasons and sees himself practicing yoga as long as his athletic career takes him.
Herm sees yoga as an exercise to do after a practice and on a player’s own time. He doesn’t plan on incorporating it into Foley’s stretching routine.
“I don’t know a lot about yoga but I know it’s difficult,” Herm said. “It’s a lot of body control. We don’t stretch a lot before practice. It can take a lot of time. We stretch more at the end of practice because there is more of a benefit to recovery and flexibility at that time.”
Herm said the muscles shouldn’t be too relaxed when an athlete prepares to play in a high-intensity and high-impact sport.
He would know. Herm, also an assistant wrestling coach and physical education teacher at Foley, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
“If (Svihla) was doing yoga before practice, I’d have more of an issue with it,” Herm said. “It would be a whole different bag. After? Sure. Before? No.
“To be able to watch kids get better and take it upon themselves to do things on their own like Cameron did with yoga, it’s gratifying. Hopefully he got that from hanging out with us in the weight room and field house.”