Yoga helps Giants prep for Super Bowl

Image: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (© Sharon Ellman/AP Photo)
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The New York Giants' biggest bruisers may have a yoga instructor to thank if they manage to bend the events at Lucas Oil Stadium in their favor Sunday.

Gwen Lawrence, who has been on Big Blue's payroll since 2004, has been whipping the players into shape for gameday by coaxing them into pretzel-like positions, such as downward dog, tree and frog.

"It's a very demanding form of exercise that includes balance strength, flexibility, mental toughness, focus, and proper breathing," Lawrence said ahead of Super Bowl XLVI.

Yoga is also a key to preventing injuries and especially to protecting star quarterback Eli Manning on the field, she said.

"Pro athletes of all types see that it will improve their health and longevity on the field of play," Lawrence said.

She was introduced to the team by gridiron great Frank Gifford after spending years as a personal yoga teacher for his feisty TV star wife, Kathie Lee Gifford, who still calls Lawrence, "a dear friend."

Lawrence's yoga classes are mandatory for Giants rookies, and optional for the vets, though many of them go regularly, including Manning, who she calls, "nice, smart, and really flexible."

In her classes at the Giants' Meadowlands facility, Lawrence focuses on teaching poses to help players recover after especially hard-hitting games, and offers yoga assignments for the players to take home and practice all week.

She said she adjusts her routines based on the players who show up -- an offensive lineman has different needs and a different body type than an acrobatic, agile wide receiver.

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