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  • Marion native and John A. Logan women's golf coach Lauren Bond-Clark leads the Volunteer men's basketball team through a yoga workout session. The nation's No. 4 ranked NJCAA DI team has embraced the physical, mental and spiritual practice of yoga and is feeling good doing so.

    Marion native and John A. Logan women's golf coach Lauren Bond-Clark leads the Volunteer men's basketball team through a yoga workout session. The nation's No. 4 ranked NJCAA DI team has embraced the physical, mental and spiritual practice of yoga and is feeling good doing so.
    SPYDER DANN | mdann@dailyregister.com

 
By Spyder Dann mdann@dailyregister.com
updated: 2/18/2021 10:20 AM

At 7-foot-3 Jamarion Sharp needs two mats when the John A. Logan sophomore basketball player performs yoga.
Yeah, go ahead and laugh if you want, just make sure to not do it in the face of 6-foot-8, 260-pound teammate Sydney Curry, whose balled up left first mirrors the front of a Mack truck and also does Yoga.
Perhaps for grown men, Yoga could be considered taboo, but the nation's No. 4 ranked Volunteers basketball team has embraced the physical, mental and spiritual practice of yoga and is feeling good doing so, thanks to a friend and fan of the program, Lauren Bond-Clark.
The Marion native doubles as John A. Logan women's golf coach and Yoga instructor to the handful of teams the Carterville college campus offers.
JALC head men's basketball coach Kyle Smithpeters acknowledged how much of an impact Bond-Clark's training and teaching has been for his basketball program, not only helping them get in shape for what Smithpeters calls "the longest season in basketball history,", but helping them with their frame of mind in what will be a grueling basketball schedule.
"I think it's one of those aspects as a coach that you always have to keep an open mind on new things," Smithpeters said. "Obviously, when you think basketball players, yoga isn't something that comes to mind with that. Lauren has done not only a great job of working our guys out, but giving us as coaches information on what it's benefiting and what it's doing.
"The biggest thing is when can see when these guys are done, the difference in their flexibility and mentality. The guys enjoy it and feel better and when you have that mental aspect of how grueling a basketball season is, anything you can do that will benefit you physically and emotionally is something you need to invest heavily in."
Bond-Clark's methods have helped the Logan players gain the strength and flexibility for the quick change in direction basketball demands.
Sharp is exhibit A as the Vols' shot blocker credits Clark for helping him in his ability to become more flexible and agile.
When I'm done doing Yoga, I feel like a whole new person," Sharp said. "Lauren helps us stretch out muscles that are sore and if I'm stiff or something, after we get done doing a yoga session, I feel a lot more loose."
The 2009 Marion graduate, attended Logan for a year, before finishing out her career at Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tennessee. Bond-Clark looked at turning pro after college, but between working out and practicing in preparation, she got bit by the yoga bug and was instantly hooked.
In 2019 she got her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training and has become the go-to girl at JALC for teaching all sports the benefits of Yoga.
"When I became women's golf coach here at Logan, I implemented yoga with my team 20 to 30 minutes before practice. It was a way to get their head in practice and out of school or relationships or whatever distractions they had. We wanted them grounded in what we were doing. The girls enjoyed it and (JALC AD) Greg Starrick reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in working with the other sports. 
"As far as basketball, I grew up with basketball, my dad was a huge player," Bond-Clark said. "I have always loved basketball, I love all the sports, but basketball is very close to my heart. As far as yoga, the movement of basketball goes perfectly with the yoga posture."
Bond-Clark describes one pose as "Warrior 1" that strengthens the thighs and stabilizes the knees, which turns into a "Crescent Lunge" to help with leg strength and flexibility. There are a lot of hip openers because basketball demands a quick change of direction.
"As far as flexibility and strength, they do great with movements," Bond-Clark said of the Vols' basketball team. "I know I wear them out, they are not used to holding static poses. But, it's a good workout for them, I stretch them out and use guided mediation with body awareness. It's a way that we can move through body parts and perhaps predict injuries if they are tense or tight."
Despite the taboo nature, Bond-Clark said she has received zero push back from any player -- from any sports -- and the biggest surprise for her has been how much everyone has adapted and accepted her methods.
"I really think it's something everyone looks forward to," Bond-Clark said. "It's even a case when I'm done and I'm not supposed to come back for another week, the guys will ask if I can come back tomorrow! It's gratifying to hear that.
"COVID messed up everything for everyone and I really just started the career I have been waiting for a long time. Now, we're kind of able to do a little more and I'm working with more teams and it's been a blast."

Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.