Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/5/2020 (301 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jodian Self is hanging out with some of the biggest names in pro sports these days — all from the comfort of her south Winnipeg home.
The 52-year-old former physical education teacher has built an impressive list of high-profile clients and sports teams signing up for joga training, which she’s now moved online due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One day it might be James Harden of the NBA’s Houston Rockets getting sweaty on her computer screen. The next it could be P.K. Subban of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
"It’s kinda cool. I’m living in Winnipeg and coaching some of the highest-paid athletes in the world," Self said on Tuesday.
You’re not alone if you’re wondering just what the heck joga is. It’s essentially yoga for jocks, and the term was coined by CFL star quarterback Henry Burris when it was first introduced to his Calgary Stampeders team several years ago by joga founder and Alberta native Jana Webb. In a nutshell, you take the usual movements, poses and breathing practices of yoga and tailor them to suit the specific needs of professional athletes.
"What athlete needs to do tree poses and headstands? None of them," said Self, a married mother of two who was familiar with traditional yoga but turned to joga in 2016 after a brief foray into the world of all-natural bodybuilding in which she put on plenty of muscle mass.
"It was kind of like what’s the flavour of the month," she said about the foray into bodybuilding. "It wasn’t something I was totally passionate about. At the time it was about how disciplined can you be to do something. It wasn’t about the prize at the end. And I could really care less about getting on stage wearing something that could fit in a Ziploc bag."
With that experiment behind her, Self wanted to get back to connecting body, mind and soul. But her old routine just wasn’t cutting it.
"I was really, really tightly bound and had lots of past injuries. I would go to yoga, and then I would get hurt. I would go again to yoga, and then I would get hurt again," said Self.
A quick Google search with the words "yoga for athletes" introduced her to this relatively new practice that had been created in Canada. And, in a case of perfect timing, there was an upcoming training session in Winnipeg looking to recruit new participants and teachers. She immediately signed up.
"Once I did the first session I was like ‘This feels so good.’ It felt so stable. The whole idea is strength, stability, mobility. By the end of the training session I was like "I could teach this." And that’s how it all got started," she said.
Self got her pro certification in 2018 and brought the practice to Elite Performance in Winnipeg, where she began working with local athletes who trained through the facility. Winnipegger D.J. Lalama, a former linebacker with his hometown Blue Bombers who is now signed with the Montreal Alouettes, was one of the early advocates, and word began spreading about the benefits.
In addition to many local clients including the Winnipeg Rifles junior football team and the Winnipeg Warriors AAA hockey teams, Self started getting calls from teams outside the province, including clients in the NBA and NHL. She began travelling with Webb to various markets for hands-on consultation and training. The NBA was a prime customer, with members of the Rockets and Brooklyn Nets becoming regular clients.
For the past two months, Self has been doing all her teaching through Zoom. The sessions are typically 30 to 60 minutes, depending on what the specific training staff for the organization wants.
"Every day of the week there is a pro team that has a session. That could be coached by me, that could be coached by Jana. We have one person who is the eyes, and another coach who is the demonstrator. The athletes are all up on the screen. They see the coach who’s demonstrating, and the other coach is the one telling them what to do and watching what they do, and of course correcting them," said Self.
"You got guys in Florida, guys in their basements, guys in their garages. You’ve got everything. And it’s so cool to see how you can bring everyone together as a team and they’re still doing the same program they’d be doing on the road or if we went to wherever they were."
Self would love to name drop, but said she’s limited in what she can share publicly.
"So much of this is under the radar, because teams don’t want other teams to know what they’re doing," she said. "The New Jersey Devils, for example, have been very open with putting it out there that they do joga. But some teams I can’t talk about because they don’t want other teams to know they’re doing joga."
As part of the efforts to keep growing joga, Self and other trainers around North America launched a program called Home Team Together in which they’re offering a 30-minute online coaching experience for amateur sports teams in exchange for the ability to share details about it on social media. Coaches or players looking for more details can contact her directly at email@example.com, or through her Instagram page @selfignition4u.
Self said while traditional yoga may have been frowned upon, there’s a growing number of players and organizations who see the benefits of joga. This latest chapter in life adds to her own story, which also includes attempting to scale Mount Kilimanjaro as a 50th birthday present to herself. She got to the School Hut zone of the climb but was prevented from continuing by medical officials due to altitude sickness.
"The doctor said ‘You’re not going any further, we’re sending you down," the self-described "wanderlust seeker" said of the experience.
There’s no such risk in this new adventure, which brings Self into the world of professional sports in unique fashion and combines many of her interests and passions.
"I keep checking off all these things that kind of pique my interest," she said.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.