When you walk past Georgia Southern’s Iron Works — the on-campus weight-training facility for GSU athletics — you usually hear the sounds of heavy lifting and intense workouts coming from within.
For 45 minutes each Wednesday throughout the summer, things sound a little bit different.
The sounds of nature and adult contemporary can be heard emanating from the speakers as the football Eagles participate in their weekly voluntary yoga workout.
Strength and conditioning coach Tom Melton tried yoga the first time when he held the post at GSU in 2006, and when he returned to the position under then-first-year head coach Jeff Monken in 2010, decided yoga would come back with him.
“I tried it one time and I’ll tell you, it was unbelievable. I bought in right away,” Melton said about 2006. “By the end of the session, I didn’t want to get up. I felt like I was glued to the floor. I was so relaxed and so loose.
“There’s meditation, relaxation, coordination, balance, flexibility — all part of what we need to develop our body.”
Not everyone on the team bought in the first time they tried yoga — especially the big guys — but Melton says the program is most popular among the offensive line.
“The first time I came in here, it was just awful,” said Brandavious Mann, a 270-pound rising senior. “I was getting into positions I’ve never gotten into before. You notice a big difference afterwards. It’s working. It’s just different.”
Because the big guys had to get used to the new workout routine, some new rules had to be established.
“We had to put in a rule after the first day — a no laughing rule,” Mann said. “[Offensive lineman] Blake DeBartola, watching him do it is hilarious, but everyone’s getting better.”
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Skyler Pyles leads the sessions with a series of cards featuring different positions, and although he is adamant that he is not a trained yoga instructor, he has seen the benefits of the voluntary program.
“Most people think of yoga as just being flexibility training, but we do a lot of balance and core work as well,” said Pyles. “We have a lot of guys that tried it once and keep on coming, and we’ve had enough interest in it to pursue it during the season, too.”
The Eagles did a yoga routine in hotels on road trips during the 2010 season.
“You travel on the buses like we do for four or five hours,” said Melton, “get to the hotel and eat after the meetings, then we get in a dark room and just relax and stretch out."
Though summer workouts are voluntary, they aren’t easy.
There is no work on Wednesdays for the team, but coming into Iron Works on the off day is helpful in the middle of the week.
“On Monday and Tuesday, we lift and we run,” said quarterback Jaybo Shaw, a rising senior. “Then we’re sore, and we get to come in and stretch, just relax. Then we get back at it on Thursday.”