Grand Gents use yoga practice to get ready for state

Bailey Evans, left, leads the Grand Gents rugby team through a yoga workout Wednesday at Grand Junction High School.



School is out for the day at Grand Junction High School.

On the baseball field, coach Kyle Rush is cracking pop flies, maybe 200 feet high, to infielders who look up and sidle as though dizzy.

Nearby, on the track and the grass it encompasses,  athletes hop and squat and, yeah, they run.

Do they all notice what’s up on the northeast practice field?

Rugby players have formed six lines about four people deep. They arch their backs to the grass and point one arm to the sky, the other downward as though attempting to snatch a heel.

They do this for the next 30 minutes or so —  grabbing their feet while seated, pointing their toes to goalposts, squatting like frogs, breathing gently as though cooling a full bowl of soup. Was that the pigeon pose? Or the happy baby?

Regardless, the rugby players, generally forceful and a bit barbaric, are stretched and, for many gangly moments, softened. The Grand Gents are ready.

Ready for Saturday’s Colorado state quarterfinals against either Littleton or Boulder at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Wednesday was the first yoga practice for the Gents, a local high school rugby club comprised of players in and around Grand Junction, as well as those from the defunct Aspen Jr. Gents.

Nine Gents players are U-17 selects, a similar achievement to being selected to an all-state team.

Last season, the Gents, in only their second season, lost in the state semifinals to Littleton.

But who cares?

Marsh Casey can do the pigeon pose.

“I can do it,” Casey says after pulling off the frog-like squat. “Who saw that?”

A few, perhaps.

Then they move on to some of the more difficult poses, at the players’ request.

Did not go well.

“We’re teenagers, come on,” one says.

“I can’t do that. No freakin’ way, man,” screeches another.

They wince. They smile. They look over to one another, sharing moments of unfiltered awkwardness, unabashed in yoga zeal.

Bailey Evans, daughter of Gents’ coach Doug Evans, is a freshman at Colorado Mesa University and the yoga instructor for this session. She quiets the crowd.

“Let’s try not to talk this time,” she says, before telling the boys to lie down on their backs and lift their hips a few inches above ground. Then they lower their hips, one vertebrae at a time. The movements are slow and stretching. They are gentle — and finally, the Gents are just that.

Which is why yoga may help stretch the Gents into the semis.

“We wanted to get them mentally prepared and relaxed,” Doug Evans said.

Afterward, they were.

“That was hard,” Casey said, his eyes bulging with a combination of excitement and surprise. “We should do that more during games. Get a personal yoga instructor for before the game and put us in the right mindset.”

Scorch those rugby stereotypes, if they exist. The Gents have sold scented candles to raise money for equipment and didn’t seem intimidated by this physical, mental, spiritual and ancient practice that originated in India.

And it is, if only stereotyped, of a feminine essence.

“Some of those positions were tough to do,” said Eli Harrison, who is home-schooled. “But I didn’t have a problem with it.”

Jonny Sanchez, a Palisade senior, saw past the poses, and into the benefits for rugby players.

“In my position as a hook,” he said, “I bend down a lot and crouch, so I’ll probably be better at that and relaxed and not as tense.”

Everybody squashed stress.

Other than the instructor.

“Even with the stress of all those boys talking,” Bailey Evans said, “I feel pretty good.”


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