Keith Mitchell, a seventh-year all-pro linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars played one of the most violent positions in a violent game. He hit people for a living. But until he faced off against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 14, 2003, he’d never had a serious injury.
On that day, “after the type of tackle I’d made probably a million times,” he says, he fell to the ground and couldn’t move. He was carried off the field and diagnosed with a “spinal contusion.”
For six months, he was paralyzed. But his therapist told him to focus on the one physical thing he could control — his breathing. Mitchell began to meditate, and within a year of the injury he began to walk.
But his career was over. Since middle school, Mitchell had worked his body into football shape — lifting weights, sprinting, and hitting — but now, as he rehabilitated his body, he turned to yoga.
“It helped me heal physically and understand my body in ways I never thought about playing football,” Mitchell says.
Today, Mitchell is a nationally recognized yoga teacher based in Los Angeles. As he reflects on his football career, he can’t help but think today’s players could benefit from the practice.