The first time Tobias Harris practiced yoga at a studio in Long Island, New York, he almost fainted. Granted, it was Bikram yoga, a practice in which the room is usually heated to a temperature of 95-108 degrees with a humidity of 40 percent.
“It was recommended to me through a lot of people because of flexibility and things that would further help me,” Harris recalled. “But then, when I got in there and realized how hot it was and then the heat combined with the movements, I almost passed out.”
Thankfully, Harris made it through his first class without losing consciousness, and the practice has stuck with him ever since.
“When I first started yoga, I was looking to do it more for the workout aspect of it, and now I kind of do it more for the meditation experience and just the soothing and calming experience, mixed with being able to put your muscles and stretch in different positions," Harris said. "It puts me in a spot where I can use my breath and hone in and focus on my own personal inner being.”
For Harris, yoga is one of the many aspects that contribute to his overall well-being — a balance of “mind, body, soul and making sure that's all on a healthy level.” Something he is very passionate about.
So passionate, in fact, that Harris helped lead a small yoga class at Y7 Studios in New York on Sunday, as part of the inaugural Tobias Harris Healthy Lifestyle Conference, a two-day event focused on health and wellness.
“Everything from meditation to working out, to being financially on top of your business, things that for my own self-awareness, I embody in my own walk of life and my profession,” Harris said about the conference.
“Physical health and mental health go hand in hand. Every day I wake up and go work out, and it's not because I have to do it, it's because it's good for my own well-being as a person to be able to get up and move every day.”
Harris also appreciates how the attitude toward mental health, especially in men’s professional sports, is shifting.
“It's a more open dialogue type of feel," Harris said. "I think more males are feeling more comfortable to say it's OK to go and talk to somebody.”
For Harris, talking to a therapist has been a personal shift for him, too.
“My girlfriend is the first person who told me to go talk to somebody and see how it goes, and my response back was like, ‘I don't need to go talk to anybody,’" Harris said. "But until you actually try it and do it, then the stigma around it goes away … and you go, ‘Actually, that was really helpful for me.’ I think I appreciate how open of a field it is now, and I think it’s important for a lot of people.”
Especially in the age of social media.
“I think [social media] has a bigger impact [on mental health] than people may realize," Harris said. "Sometimes feeding into the negativity or the positivity also can affect your mental state, where you may get too high or too low in different settings.”
And add to that, injuries, playing time and other moments of adversity that affect a player’s mental health.
“I think every NBA player has been there, maybe every pro athlete has been there,” Harris said.
"That's why I know from my own personal self, always keep a base of who you are and things you can keep on a daily basis to help your own self and to help you be the best you, every single day.”
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