OSU coach says poses help improve flexibility, strength

CORVALLIS — Serving as a head football coach at a Football Bowl Subdivision school ranks among the most stressful jobs in America, right up there with military personnel, firefighters and sportswriters.

There are times when even mild-mannered, even-keeled Mike Riley needs a release.

So six days a week, the veteran Oregon State coach puts on his gym shorts, takes off his shoes and socks, and assumes yoga poses such as “downward dog,” “cobra” and “plank.”

“I’m kind of obsessive about it now,” says Riley, 60, who turned to yoga for exercise nearly two years ago when his knees started bothering him while jogging. “It never takes me longer than 45 minutes. Sometimes I do it with Dee (his wife), but she gets bored with it. So a lot of times, I just do it on my own.”

Riley starts with stretching and breathing exercises, bending his body through a series of poses, holding each pose for six breaths. He does 12 cycles of four poses, then performs the “plank” — holding himself in an upward sit-up position — for two minutes, and finishes with 60 crunches.

The OSU mentor says it relaxes him, but also allows his body to be more limber.

“A lot of it is for strength and flexibility,” he says. “Flexibility makes your whole body feel better. I’m more flexible now than I have been my whole life. After I get going in my cycles, I can almost put my palms on the ground. Before, I could barely touch my knees.”

When in Corvallis, Riley does yoga at the OSU Sports Performance Center. On the road, he’ll do it in his hotel room or the hotel’s exercise room.

“A couple of years ago, being on the practice field was really hard on my legs,” says the 6-foot Riley, who at 175 pounds is five pounds over his weight during his playing days at Alabama. “I don’t even feel it in my legs anymore. I know yoga has played a big part of it. My body is in better shape than it has been in a long time. For me, it’s better than running.

It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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