In the macho world of international football, Germany have taken a more spiritual approach by employing a yoga teacher at Euro 2016, whose former pupils include Madonna and Sting.
“To my knowledge, I was the only yoga teacher working with a national team at the World Cup in Brazil,” Munich-based yoga teacher Patrick Broome told AFP.
Broome is part of Germany’s backroom staff for major tournaments and puts Die Mannschaft’s stars through exercises to relax them physically and mentally.
Former Manchester United star Ryan Giggs, who was still playing at 40, says yoga helped extend his career.
Germany head coach Joachim Loew is also a fan of the ancient Indian discipline.
Now the likes of Germany’s Thomas Mueller, Lukas Podolski and Mats Hummels are no strangers to yoga postures like ‘lotus’, ‘warrior and ‘cobra’.
“He’s been part of the team since (the 2014 World Cup in) Brazil and he offers courses every day,” said veteran Germany forward Podolski at their Euro 2016 base in Evian.
“We can decide for ourselves to take advantage or not. It’s not on the training plan that we have to go, but he does a good job.”
Three yoga refuseniks
Broome has accompanied Germany to World Cups and European championships over the last decade, but officially became part of the coaching staff only two years ago.
He offers sessions to help the footballers “improve flexibility, concentration and performance on the field” which in turn helps keep them free of injury.
Broome holds daily sessions of up to 45 minutes to keep the players supple and help recover after games. Only three of the squad regularly decline to take part.
“Good recovery after a game is essential for the players to maintain their level of performance,” says Broome, who is in his 40s and has been practising yoga for twenty years.
It was Loew’s predecessor, California-based Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach from 2004 until the 2006 World Cup, who first invited Broome into the German camp.
Klinsmann saw the benefits of yoga while living on the west coast of the USA.
Loew then took it a step further by adding Broome, who has worked with pop icons Madonna and Sting in New York, to his backroom staff for Euro 2008.
Broome, who has two yoga studios in Munich, says Loew showed “courage” to add yoga sessions to Germany’s training sessions ten years ago.
“At the time, the German press made fun of the players when they were training with rubber bands, to increase their muscle strength, and yoga with ‘all this nonsense’,” said Broome with a smile.
At the players request, Broome accompanied Germany to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Through breathing techniques and holding postures, Germany’s stars “can let off steam quickly” after a match, said Broome.
“It also allows them to stretch and to experience a different physical experience,” added Broome.
Broome, who is now a leading figure on Germany’s yoga scene, puts the players through a “stripped-down version” of yoga, shorn of incense sticks or other paraphernalia.
“With the players, I am much less into the spiritual side of the practice,” he admits.
Mario Goetze, whose goal won the 2014 World Cup final, is a firm yoga convert and Broome says the spiritual side of yoga helps balance the day-to-day pressures on the players.
In our society of “ever faster, ever more efficient,” yoga is also a powerful remedy for stress management, he added.