LAKEWOOD RANCH — Anthony Lauro walked into the yoga studio for the first time three weeks ago anticipating a nice relaxing workout.
But, after an hour of downward-facing dog, half-moons, backbends, lunges and other yoga poses, the Manatee High senior running back and wide receiver had a new appreciation for the fitness regimen.
“I thought it was going to be a lot easier,” Lauro said. “I thought it was going to be like what you see on TV — easy and relaxing stuff.”
So, what’s the toughest part about the yoga for athletes program?
“Everything is the toughest part,” Lauro said. “It just conditions me to have better muscle control. I’m building stamina and strength using other muscles that I don’t normally use.”
In May, Athletic Edge Sports in Lakewood Ranch introduced its new yoga program, which offers yoga programs for athletes based on their specific sports, as well as power yoga sessions for the community.
“We thought it would be a great addition to the athletic facility,” yoga instructor Jessica Ashley said. “That flexibility (element) was missing. It’s a great addition for the athletes, in particular, but it’s also nice to have an element (available) to the public.
“For athletes, the biggest thing is they want to be the best they can,” Ashley said. “But it’s not a competition. It really is your own mind game in here.”
A former three-sport athlete, Ashley first began taking yoga classes while attending St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Upon graduation, Ashley attended James Madison University in Virginia, where she decided to become a group-fitness instructor. She earned her national group-fitness certification through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and eventually became the Group Fitness and Wellness Manager at University Recreation.
“I didn’t know it was my thing at first, but it became a great passion of mine,” Ashley said. “I love pushing people to their limits and strengthening them to make them better. I got certified and I sort of made it my own.”
“Yoga has always been seen as a female atmosphere, but it was originally a male practice in India,” Ashley said. “The benefits are amazing — to regain flexibility and for strength building.”
The new yoga program at Athletic Edge Sports offers Yoga for Athletes classes from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays for $15 a session. During each session, Ashley tailors the workout toward the athlete’s specific sport.
“It’s mind over matter,” Ashley said. “A lot of the athletes are surprised by the workout they get. Yoga makes you use different core muscles that you wouldn’t normally use in your core workout. They sweat in here.
“I’ve always been an athlete and this is a totally different world,” Ashley said. “I enjoy that aspect of it — pushing them to their limits both physically and mentally. They were so resistant at first, but they can’t believe how different they feel from day one to now. They’re tackling poses they never thought they would be able to do and are surprised by the results they actually get.”
In addition to Yoga for Athletes classes, Ashley also offers Power Yoga sessions, which are open to the community. Power Yoga sessions are held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; noon to 1 p.m. Wednesdays; and 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Thursdays. Drop-in sessions are $15, and package rates are also available.
For more information, visit athleticedgesports.com or contact Jessica Ashley at 400-6388 or email [email protected].
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].