'I love the sweat': Former Ohio State, NBA star Michael Redd finds new challenge in yoga
The cadence of Rebekah, the blonde yoga instructor, rang through Studio One at YogaSix.
Slowly, the four participants rose to tabletop position, shoulders stacked over wrists and hips above knees. A few poses later, it was time for the first downward dog of this slow-flow class. With arms outstretched, hips shifted backward and heels reaching for the ground, all five people in the room more or less looked the same.
Who is Michael Redd? Get to know the former Ohio State standout
The only way to tell the Olympic gold medalist from the rest of the crowd would have been with a ruler. Michael Redd, whose 22 Ventures purchased the studio in July, needed a yoga mat measuring 76 inches, a full eight inches longer than the standard size.
Otherwise, the Ohio State standout, NBA all-star and physically imposing Redd was just another member of the class — and that was exactly the point. In purchasing the studio, Redd was hoping to make the practice more accessible to all walks of life.
Changing public stereotypes about yoga
Part of that is erasing the stigma that yoga is only for certain people, and to combat that, Redd has put his money where his mouth is, and — in the case of during a forward fold — his knees, too.
“Sometimes people need culture interpreters,” Redd told The Dispatch. “(They think), ‘If I see someone who looks like me, it’s OK to be a part.’ We want to continue to do that.”
Since re-launching the studio last month, Redd and John Weaver, CEO of 22 Ventures, have been periodically taking classes at the Lane Avenue studio. YogaSix, based in Irvine, California, has been in business since 2012, but this is the first time the Upper Arlington location has had local ownership.
Redd has been practicing yoga for more than a decade. Weaver got his start with a DVD at roughly the same time, and both have enjoyed the mental and physical benefits of the practice ever since. When he enters the studio, Redd said, he enjoys the chance to park his phone in the hallway and spend the next hour focused only on his own well-being.
'Feels better than a message'
On this day, Redd was participating in a slow-flow class, but his personal favorite is hot yoga, where yogis hold poses longer and are given cold towels with a unique fragrance at the conclusion.
“It actually feels better than a massage,” he said. “It just feels like great relief. I love the sweat.”
There have been some star-struck moments after classes, Redd said, where fellow yogis will express their excitement over having done a class with a celebrity. Rebekah told the participants of this class that “The star’s in the house!”
Otherwise, “I’m so busy sweating I’m not really paying attention to who’s focusing on me, but they’ve all been very respectful after classes,” said Redd.
The point isn’t to compete with anyone else in the room. It’s to focus on personal improvement, both physically and mentally.
“We want to create a non-comparison environment,” Redd said. “That is really, really important. I don’t want to have the weight and pressure of trying to compete against someone in the class who can stand on their head.”
There were no handstands attempted during this session, which Redd had to leave early in order to get to another business appointment. While transitioning from downward dog into three-legged downward dog, which requires the yogi to extend one leg while keeping the other planted on the mat, Redd had to angle his body to avoid kicking the back wall. As he brought the leg forward and between his hands for a low lunge, the exertion produced a grunt as he wobbled to keep balance.
Throughout, he glanced forward, making sure to follow Rebekah’s example. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whose leg can point higher, whose torso can fold more completely or whose balance is the greatest. What does matter is the opportunity to feel better, to find personal challenges and to showcase the fact that yoga is for everyone.
No matter how big your mat might be.