I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with NFL Star Athlete Keith Mitchell, a former linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars. Keith has been an inspiration to me in many ways and I thought it both appropriate with football season upon us and also impactful because of his story, to push forward some of the remarkable things he is currently involved in that are making a difference!! My next article regarding Keith will most likely be about his amazing swimming skills and my improved yoga practice as we trade off and teach the other with our own areas of expertise :).
Keith was at the top of his professional game when, without warning, his football career suddenly ended after being confronted with a paralyzing spinal injury during a game.This injury forced Keith into retirement at the young age of 31. Unwilling to surrender to the plague of emotional depression and physical defeat he often observed in many NFL peers facing similar traumas, Keith channeled his energy into the practice of yoga and meditation for healing. His transformation from this daily practice of yoga and meditation was life-changing and compelled him to becoming a respected Master Certified Yoga Instructor with currently more than 10 years of experience.
I hope you enjoy the conversation below with Keith and perhaps it leaves you feeling more enlightened to take your yoga and meditation practice to the next level, begin practicing for the first time or become more aware of your own self care. Whatever it is, we would love to hear from you and your beautiful journey to better health and wellness! Namaste xx, a-m
AM: How did yoga and meditation get introduced to you and had you ever practiced it as an NFL athlete?
KM: Mediation was introduced to me as I was going through a traumatic injury while playing football for the Jacksonville Jaguars. I was diagnosed with a spinal contusion. I suffered paralysis for 6-month period.
AM: Football and yoga are so different but can absolutely complement one another. How would you go about explaining that to some of your ex- teammates, strength coaches and/or current NFL players?
KM: Well this would be a strategy based on what their interests are, which in this case- excelling in their sport, creating longevity, better focus and calm to relax during intense situations. Totally superficial but yet complex, whereas most of the high-level football and basketball players don’t have a real understanding of how their bodies work and don’t have the healthiest nutritional habits.
AM: You had a rather abrupt, life-changing transition to make that for many would have sidelined them from life and left down and out. How were you able to move through the transition when your world and all you had known it to be for so long, had changed?
KM: In this case I can’t take full responsibility of this action on my own. As for football, my anger pushed me, but in this case, maybe rebelliousness of one of my ancestors because I would not be defeated. It was because I wanted to love myself and I figured to be worth it…my masculinity, my view on the world, in particular my world. Reflecting on my results and taking into consideration the results to be improvements, fulfillment, satisfaction or not…I didn’t want to live like that anymore- I wanted more.
AM: I know I personally have found my yoga practice to be challenging and beneficial to my current training program-not just physically but mentally, as I began a renewed spiritual journey and freed up a lot of blocked energy by letting go. Your passion for sharing the practice of yoga and meditation is contagious. What do you hope others will receive from your passion and practice?
KM: The pleasure of life is to create growth; this is the spice of life and in my opinion the true yoga. To create the relationship, to check in through observation. To consider possibility instead of being stuck to one perspective- just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Due to the fact that most of our perspectives are based by unconscious behavior and traumatic conditioning never taking our own initiative to search out knowledge.
AM: What are a few of the valuable lessons when it comes to controlling the mind/mental aspect of training that you learned through football that carried over into your yoga practice?
KM: Sports has a lot of symmetry to consciousness living due to the fact of development- to constantly consider getting better, no attachments to what we think we know, short memory, the practice of not bringing what just happened into the now. The 3,4,5,6 dimensional learning curves.
AM: What fuels you mentally, physically, emotionally to wake every day and go out and be your best?
KM: To create, to connect, to help, to inspire while giving all of that first to myself. If you think of a ladder and the journey to climb as I did in sports and to see myself do the same climb from more of a Zen perspective, from an idea of love and really something that’s aligned to who I am and what truly makes me feel fulfilled…I dig that! The other ladder was fueled by anger and chaos and I even thought the blueprint created an idea of success, doesn’t mean it has to be my only way. I believe or I hope to show people if they have doubt, see my example. If they have fear, well maybe I can provide inspiration in a way that they find relatable in order pursue their truths to what they truly love.
AM: What is an athlete/defines an athlete in your opinion and experience?
KM: Athletes have different looks yes, an athlete is built on the fight to step out of the norm, and it’s a non-accepting concept that we are not special. Granted there are a few sports that culturally get the popular vote, which include those types of players, so another sport is created, another athlete is born and this pattern goes on and on.
AM: As we both know and have had many conversations around, more and more NFL and collegiate football players/athletes in general are seeing the positive benefits of incorporating yoga into their workout routines. If you could share some of your useful lessons from your journey in yoga and meditation with some of your teammates and other NFL athletes what would they be?
KM: I believe the more information that you know about how you fusion, you will realize how to recognize your behavior. You will build the relationship, to an extent your physical, but you learn to develop your mind and when we can access the possibility of mind, we create possibilities of our reality. This is esoteric sounding I know…but it’s right on. I wouldn’t share this typically right off but these are possibilities.
AM: I would love for you to share more about your non-profit
KM: I have a non-profit The Light It Up Foundation. I connect to our youth because I was there once and I endured trauma, a lot of unconscious characteristics. I believe the concepts of yoga allows our youth to start the relationships from earlier ages. Light it Up educates youth from ages 10-17, and their families, about the importance of healthy living for brain development and education. The foundation uses a three-prong approach by focusing on nutrition, physical education and strengthening the cognitive function. We begin the events in LA and will be setting more up across the country.
AM: Besides the yoga and meditation practice, what other types of fitness activities/training do you participate in on a regular basis?
KM: I’ve created a yoga with weights program that I’m in to; weights are important in order to manipulate the body’s production of HGH and testosterone. I do believe in making my routines more functional because what’s the use of developing strength that will not help you in the world.
AM: If we were to tap into KM’s playlist, what might be some of the most played songs we would find?
KM: I have love for electronic music with different hooks. Example artist Synkro~ song Look At Yourself.
AM: You know I can’t set you loose without touching on nutrition and fuel – what are some of your go-to’s as far as pre and post workout fuel?
KM: Nutrition is simple to me, peoples patterns with feeding their bodies is the same pattern as how they ultimately feel about themselves. When they don’t truly care; they are not interested in growth, no understanding of nurturing oneself. When self knowledge is attained, you start doing things to preserve oneself; you look at life a bit different. Our foods are simple… as you create practices to move your body more, you must create a practice in order to sustain/fuel what you’re up to. Continue to do these things but raise the vibrations of what you’re doing in order to maintain and support of what your growing into…evolving in to.
Before Nutrition I would suggest cleansing the body to create a clearer channel within the colon and the intestinal tract. The bodies organs have been abused through the duration of our unconscious attitude toward ourselves and life happening to us, cleansing is important so that the nutrients can actually be absorbed by the body.
AM: What’s next for you?
KM: Just finished in NYC, helping build Wanderlust 108. We are headed to Atlanta on Sept. 28th and then I am teaching Wanderlust Austin, TX Nov. 6-9th. The Light IT Up Foundations health+wellness expo will be Jan 31, 2015. I am so excited about that, because no one can see create your vision like you can. I think this is something that the world will and can appreciate and how ironic we start this in LA…LA is definitely a trendsetter.
Check out more from Keith:
website:KeithMitchell59.com, FB: KeithMitchell59, IG: KeithMitchell59, #LightItUpFoundation