"Just with the pressure and everything going on you get to just release it," Christen Press says of her yoga practice
Soccer star Christen Press is opening up about the secret weapon that keeps her and several teammates calm and focused while battling intense pressure on the soccer field: yoga.
“Wherever I am, I always do yoga everyday,” Press, 27, tells PEOPLE while sharing some of her favorite poses in the video above. “I think it’s so important for my physical health in sport.”
Press, Alex Morgan and Julie Johnston, who are all heading to Rio Olympics next month as part of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, are among the “regulars” who meet with a yoga instructor, she explains.
“With yoga, it works every part of the body and increases range of motion,” says Press, the team forward. “People think you get super flexible and you lose your power in sport. I’m getting back to normal because I’m so wound up and tight.”
She says it helps her not just physically, but mentally.
“I think the stress and pressure from the games and making teams, making rosters, I think it’s amazing,” says the former Stanford student who became the school’s all-time leading scorer. “That’s when our yoga group was really born. During the World Cup we did yoga every single day.”
She adds: “Just with the pressure and everything going on you get to just release it. It’s just you and your mat and the music and it’s time away from reality.”
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As she heads to Rio with her team, Press says she has no plans to skip her centering yoga practice.
“On game days I do yoga as just a really short routine. It’s more to warm up and to calm down in the morning,” says Press.
Perhaps in part because of her yoga practice, the Los Angeles native also says she’s spent a lot of time reflecting on her evolving role on the team – and her contributions in addition to the goals she scores.
“I think I’m really emerging on this team with a new role,” she says. “At the end of the day in our sport you just have to sacrifice yourself completely to put the team first. That’s not easy for us because we’re so competitive, but that’s the most important thing when it comes to World Championships.”