Titans defensive tackle Shaun Smith, right, teaches a yoga class to raise money for charity on Tuesday. / jaE S. LEE / THE TENNESSEAN
By Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean
Shaun Smith has heard all the fat man jokes.
These days, his Titans teammates also give him grief because they can't imagine a guy his size doing yoga.
Well, they should've seen Smith on Tuesday.
The 340-pound defensive tackle instructed two classes at Hot Yoga Plus on Elliston Place, where he's been a regular participant this offseason.
guy who's never afraid to make light of himself said hot yoga is no
laughing matter. It's helped him lose weight as he heads toward a season
when his job might be on the line.
"Some people like bowling or
bike riding. I like yoga," a sweat-soaked Smith said with a smile. "And
it relates to football in the sense that when it is hot on the field you
have to play through it. In hot yoga, you have to fight through it,
too. I sweat like a dog on the field, and I sweat like a dog here.
some guys make fun of me and want me to do poses in the locker room.
But that's OK. There's normally a big puddle of sweat around me at the
end of a class, but I enjoy it. And it's working."
decked out in orange swim trunks and a white tank top, but this was no
day at the beach - not for Smith or his pupils, which included safety Michael Griffin and linebacker Gerald McRath.
in hand, Smith pushed his students to do poses including the Eagle and
the Camel, in addition to the Head to Knee and the Tree. He'd done them
all, only as a student. Smith taught the 45-minute classes Tuesday to
raise money for his foundation, which benefits at-risk youth.
The thermometer on the wall read 93 degrees. If only it had been that cool.
"That is broken," said Amanda McGown, a full-time teacher at Hot Yoga Plus. "It's really 101.5, with 32 percent humidity."
Susannah Herring, owner of Hot Yoga Plus, said Smith did a great job.
is really a huge teddy bear," Herring said. "To teach classes you have
to go through a 200-hour teacher training. It is hard, and it is
nerve-wracking to get in front of people. Without the training, for him
to get up there, it speaks to how familiar he is with it. You can tell
he practices a lot."
After a season in which he failed to live up
to his own expectations - or those of the Titans - Smith said he's
dedicated to improving. That includes getting more serious in yoga,
something he began taking back in 2008.
Hot yoga is done in a warm
classroom, where the humidity and temperature help students burn more
calories while building strength and flexibility, and decreasing stress.
Smith said he's already lost 22 pounds this offseason, going from 362
pounds to 340. He wants to get to 330-335 for the season.
wasn't happy with my play last year. It really left a bad taste in my
mouth," said Smith, who had 44 tackles and one sack in 15 games.
"They paid me to do a job and I didn't do it well enough. At times I did, and at times I didn't.
let my weight get out of control, so the best way to get my weight back
down was to get back into yoga. Heading into my 10th year, I am
fighting for a roster spot. It is written on the wall, and I know that. I
have to do what I have to do. I want to be effective eight plays in a
row, not play two plays and then stink up the field."
worked up a big sweat on Tuesday, gave Smith credit for his commitment
and his poise in leading the class. He said he could see in Smith a
little bit of Steve Watterson, strength and conditioning coach for the
And the end of his first session, the class of 14 gave their teacher a nice ovation.
have to applaud him, coming here several times a week," Griffin said.
"It is hot. ... It is hard to breathe in there. It's much easier to work
outside with a breeze. But Shawn is staying motivated and trying to be
the best player he can be. The coaches say if one player gets better,
the whole team gets better. To see it first hand, it is a great sight to