Keith Mitchell: From Pro Bowl Linebacker To A Yoga Teacher
(EMAILWIRE.COM, September 29, 2014 ) Edison, NJ - New Jersey -- 15 years ago, Keith Mitchell performed in front of thousands of fans in the NYC area. However, this time they were all on yoga mats. Mitchell is a former Pro Bowl linebacker for the New Orleans Saints. "I guess the more traditional way that we are supposed to greet each other in the yoga community is we say Namaste'. That's so different from where I've come from because normally when I'd journey to the East Coast and New York City I would not be bringing peace typically. We would come here to beat up on the New York Giants and New York Jets," he says.
His journey to becoming a certified yoga and meditation instructor started during a horrific moment on the field in 2003.
In a game versus the Buffalo Bills, Mitchell suffered a serious injury trying to tackle the opposing team's running linebacker. He was diagnosed with a spinal contusion, and suffered paralysis for a six month period. Through a rehabilitation program, he was able to discover conscious breathing and meditation. It was to heal the body, and was a practice about openness. This was how he got involved.
After he tried to return to the field, his career ended when he was 29. Mitchell returned to yoga and meditation as a way to heal the physical and mental stress of no longer being a football player.
He says that, during his playing days, he was more focused on being a great athlete and never took the time to take care of himself as a person. Now that he's exited the role, he has to come to terms with himself.
Mitchell currently helps fellow athletes and military veterans, trying to relay his newfound message to all men and boys.
"Every week we have a meditation session for staff," Congressman Tim Ryan [D-Ohio] said. "We had Keith come and lead one and brought some veterans in from the DC Veterans Association who meditates. It was this wonderful picture of this All-Pro NFL star, veterans going back to Vietnam [era] all sitting in a room practicing things that help transform their own lives, whether it was post-traumatic stress or the injury Keith had. He's an All-Pro NFL guy. You don't have to say any more. Close your eyes and picture it, you got it. And he's a practitioner of this. It's really important for average dudes from Youngstown Ohio or wherever who played sports to see this as a way to make yourself feel better. It's a tough workout and to really bring some balance and stress reduction to our ever-increasingly busy lives."
Through his Light It Up charity foundation, he is also trying to provide an outlet for kids, especially those in at-risk environments. Mitchell says that a lot of people see yoga as being "girly" and something that only women do, but once men and boys see that other males also participate, they can say, "Oh, I can do it too." Once they enter, they will definitely learn to appreciate it.
Mitchell hopes he can be the forefront of the effort to show athletes that the aggression shown on the field cannot also be shown in their personal lives. He's led yoga classes for athletes and is also trying to ask the NFLPA to institute more holistic wellness facilities. He wants to connect with players as they experience life both during and after sports. He says that many "look at themselves as less than before" as they continue, and unless they do something about it, their family and kids will be the ones who suffer instead.
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