When I arrived at Patrick Broome's yoga studio in Munich, both my friend and I felt like a pair of schoolboys stuck in the corridor on our first day. People were flooding into the corridor, putting on shoes, talking to one another and looking oddly at the two men who did not look like yoga studio dwellers. It was at this moment my idea to hang out with Germany's yoga coach started looking ambitious.
Moments later, Patrick walked out of the melee and shook my hand. His topknot, rough stubble and strong posture gave him a commanding presence. When we head into a smaller studio to talk, I searched for a stool to sit on, while Broome sat on the floor. It was hard to believe the man in front of me ever woke up in the morning with sore muscles. Even when he was sitting, there was a strong sense of balance resonating from him.
I asked how he went from yoga-loving college student to Germany's number one yoga guru. “Oliver Bierhoff learned about yoga in America after his career. When he came back to Munich, we worked together and a few years later, the offer to work with Jürgen Klinsmann and the national team arrived. It quickly became clear they both wanted yoga to be an integral part of training,” said Broome.
So what is it that Broome actually does? “Before or after the game, I spend half an hour, maximum 45 minutes with the players. I focus on the legs, hips, knees and back. Stretching their hips and back is important as most injuries originate from there.”
In every major tournament since 2006, Broome has been a member of Germany's staff. Yoga for the national team is voluntary. According to Broome, there's a group that are ok with it, one that enjoys it and three players that don't do it out of principle. Mario Götze, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker are apparently keen volunteers. Mertesacker has hailed yoga as the key to him extending his career, while Götze came to Broome before the World Cup final to do a 10-minute session. “I focused on short stretches, only 10-15 seconds so the muscles stayed ready,” says Broome. There's no doubt they were ready, as Götze's winner proved.
When I first mentioned Brazil, I nearly lost Broome to a spout of nostalgia. “Everything was perfect. The harmony in the team was superb. There was a great group around the team. In Brazil, your body is completely supple. We didn't really have any long-term injuries,” said Broome.
From humble discipline to marketed lifestyle, yoga has the longevity many fitness trends simply cannot. Why? Because it does the body good: “You're physically stronger and injury proneness is heavily reduced,” says Broome.
In football, that is decisive. “Players recover quicker because they are helping themselves physically, but they are also coming down mentally after the game. Most players can't sleep after games. If we do yoga on the same day or the day afterwards, then they sleep deeply,” says Broome.
Quarter of an hour
A whole host of Bundesliga clubs have noticed Broome's work with Germany, but Broome likes to keep his services local. He's worked with Bayern and Hoffenheim and is currently working with Augsburg, who asked for yoga because they were competing in three competitions. “Augsburg say their players are recovering much quicker after games now,” says Broome with a smile.
Yoga is not for everyone though, which Broome accepts albeit with a soft warning. “After the second and third injury, people should realise the injury doesn't just come from the body, but from internal tension. Yoga helps combat that,” he tells me. The early you start, the better too. “If my work can help youngsters get into the routine, then that's fantastic. You only need 15 minutes a day,” says Broome, hoping to convince young footballers as much as young people.
After chatting, it was time to try for myself. It was amazing how quickly my two-meter frame struggled. In a simple squatting stretch, I couldn't keep my heels on the ground with my arms tucked inside my knees. Broome chuckled, saying he sees this a lot with amateur footballers (later he told me he had immediately recognised my weak points within the first stretch). We moved on to an exercise where, using a rope, I stretched every muscle down the back of my leg. I was grimacing after 15 seconds. “Do this stretch every day and you'll feel different in a week,” Broome told me.
By the time we finished, I might not have felt ready to win the World Cup, but I did feel less stiff. On the way out, Broome says to me, “Just think, later on today Thiago will be using the same equipment.” All I could think was how different a session that would be.