Utah Jazz: Joe Johnson’s secret to making defenders sweat? Hot yoga

First Published      Last Updated Apr 14 2017 09:41 pm

Utah Jazz » Veteran Joe Johnson’s secret to staying nimble? Hot yoga.

Joe Johnson was making defenders sweat. The 16-year NBA veteran looked like he had turned back the clock against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week, patiently snaking his way through defenders with confident dribbles between his legs, or bouncing on one foot, his right arm extended in the air until he had watched another 3-pointer splash the net, en route to 22 points off the bench.

It was a performance that might not have happened without his own perspiration — and a lot of it.

Before Johnson stepped onto a basketball court Friday morning, he stepped onto a yoga mat, as part of a game-day ritual the 35-year-old forward said has allowed him to be a major contributor for the playoff-bound Utah Jazz.

"This is the key for me at this time in my career," he said.

Johnson completes a 90-minute Bikram yoga class four to five times a week, sweating his way through the 26-pose routine in a humid, 105-degree room.

On Friday morning, Johnson caught a flat tire en route from his home near Park City to the yoga studio in Sugar House, but even that wouldn't keep the Jazzman from showing up, his towel and mat tucked underneath one of his hulking arms, on time for his 6 a.m. class.

Shirtless and wearing a pair of short, red trunks, Johnson stretched and contorted his body, pushing himself in hopes that he might be able to do the same that night on the court.

"It's exhausting," he said, "but it keeps me nimble, flexible, mentally and physically stable."

It has worked well enough for Johnson to convince some of his teammates and coaches to tag along. Point guard Shelvin Mack and forwards Joel Bolomboy and Trey Lyles are regulars now. Jazz coaches Johnnie Bryant, DeSagana Diop and Antonio Lang go frequently, too. The 44-year-old Lang said he has dropped 20 pounds and has been able to dunk with two hands again after years of dealing with pain in his Achilles.

"If he's got yoga in the morning, we move practice for him," Jazz coach Quin Snyder joked.

Johnson was skeptical at first. When former Atlanta Hawks trainer Wally Blase suggested the player try yoga to help deal with tendinitis in his knee, an injury that was causing him to miss games, Johnson scoffed.

"I'm not doing no yoga," he recalls saying. "But he ended up dragging me in there and the rest is history. I've been coming ever since."

Johnson's advice to hot yoga newbies?

"Always breathe. Because you have a tendency, when you get in some of these postures, to hold your breath because they're a little tough and," he said and started to smile, "you may not even know it, but you're killing yourself and you're going to end up passing out."

Survive and, as Johnson can attest, the benefits are real.

No Jazzman has logged more miles than Johnson, who has played more than 1,300 regular-season and playoff games.

"It's tough," he said. "Your body wears down so much, especially when you get older and you've been in this game for quite some time. It wears out your joints and your muscles. It wears it all out."

But when the Jazz signed Johnson to a two-year contract last summer, general manager Dennis Lindsey said the team's doctors had come away impressed with Johnson, whose body had tested out much younger than his age.

» Next page... Single page



Jazz at Warriors

Monday, 8:30 p.m. MDT