AFTER FEEDING THE 20 or so roping calves and cows on a 200-acre ranch in Bowie, Texas, Jess Lockwood often has some free time. The 19-year-old star on the Professional Bull Riders tour spends several weeks a year at the ranch owned by Cody Lambert, the director of livestock for the PBR and a former pro rider himself. There's a little more downtime here than there is at the Lockwood family's 10,000-acre, 450-cattle farm in Volborg, Mont., giving Jess the chance to hop in his Buick Regal and drive one hour south to Fort Worth for his secret weapon: hot yoga.
"We get tossed and thrown on the bull," says the 5'5", 130-pound Lockwood. "It's tough on us. We have to be flexible. Yoga helps so much. Heck, it's hot in that room. It'll help get you flexible and sweat out toxins."
The 2016 PBR rookie of the year, Lockwood does yoga for an hour every day when he's staying in Texas. The key to a successful bullrider, he says, is being lean but strong, and yoga helps him do both.
Lockwood got into doing hot yoga in May, when he and some fellow riders went to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for a weeklong exercise retreat. "From a flexibility standpoint, being able to move your body in certain positions can really help them," says Taryn Morgan, the assistant director of athletic and personal development at IMG. "On the bull, they get in some interesting positions. Yoga also decreases injury risk."
Lockwood prefers hot yoga because he likes to sweat, and he likes bullriding because "I grew up in it." His dad, Ed, rode saddle broncs; his mom, Angie, was a barrel racer; and his aunt Lisa Lockhart is a 10-time qualifier in barrel racing at the National Finals Rodeo. Jess started riding calves when he was three or four years old. "I thought it was the coolest deal ever," he says.
Currently ranked third on the circuit out of 186 riders, Lockwood has won four of his 34 events this year and finished in the top five 12 times. He was also named to the U.S. team that will compete at the five-nation PBR Global Cup in Edmonton in November.
While his bullriding doesn't leave a lot of time for Pranayama—"If you have time to think on the bull, you're probably getting thrown off"—yoga does help Lockwood relax before races and build his confidence.
"There's only about 10 guys who do yoga," he says. "You just feel good. It gives you an edge."
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IMG yoga instructor Ashley Stewart offers three poses to improve anyone's flexibility (including bullriders).
On hands and knees, stretch your knees out wide so you can sit down on your heels. Hold for a few breaths.
On all fours, spread knees apart and stretch your head forward to elongate your spine. Keep elbows right below your shoulder.
On all fours, bring left knee bended to left wrist. Slide right leg toward back of yoga mat and lay torso over the left leg.
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