NRL: Newcastle Knights incorporate 'yin' yoga into pre-season training routine | photos

Shaun Kenny-Dowall loves it while Mitch Barnett has learned to embrace it.

The Newcastle Knights pair are part of a pre-season push incorporating a specially-designed yoga session into the player’s weekly training routine.

For the 2018 squad “yin” yoga, holding certain poses for longer, was hand-picked by instructors rather than the more traditional and fast-paced “flow” yoga.

It may not be the first time a form of the ancient practice has been utilised by NRL clubs as an alternative to lifting weights and running laps around the oval, but the move to hit the mats at Balance City throughout November has been promoted by the Knights for holistic health benefits as well as injury prevention.    

“The main idea behind doing yoga is to ‘lengthen’ our players out,” Knights’ physical performance manager Tony Ayoub said.

“As you can appreciate, most footballers are very tight due to the weights they lift and the constant trauma they experience from the contact.

“The other idea behind the yoga is to take a weekly session off site, basically for a change of scenery. 

“It means there’s a different voice delivering messages that we try to get across every week, trying to teach them how to stretch on top of our own techniques at training.

“I also like the discipline of yoga… not taking short cuts.

“This hopefully translates into other areas of their work and helps them to become more professional in their overall approach.”

Kenny-Dowall, who travelled to the “home of yoga” in the Indian Himalayan region during the off-season, was grateful for the Wednesday morning addition having previously sought it out individually in a bid to continue his professional rugby league career.

“I tried to incorporate it [yoga] in my programs outside of the training I was doing and have probably done it for the last five years,” Kenny-Dowall said. 

“I took it upon myself because I had a few injuries at the time and was looking for alternative methods to prolong my career.

“I really found yoga gave me a mental focus as well as a physical balance and realignment.

“I recently went over there [to India] and did a few classes and learned a lot off some masters which was a really good experience.

“So it’s amazing that Tony [Ayoub] and the Knights’ performance staff have been able to incorporate it into our training because it’s not another thing we have to do and it’s already helping the boys along.”

Danny Buderus Medal recipient Barnett, recovering from recent shoulder surgery, has less experience with yoga but within a month noticed the difference.

“I struggle a lot more with the old yoga because of my flexibility, but it has improved over the last four weeks,” Barnett said.

Meanwhile, the Knights are expected to announce on Thursday that they will play an NRL trial game at the redeveloped Maitland Sportsground in February.