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Stressing? Let a basketball coach help you sweat it out

Coaching can be a stressful business, but Dallas Wings Assistant Coach Bridget Pettis has a way of dealing with it, along with any other type of stress life has to offer.

Pettis practices and teaches ashtanga yoga. This system of yoga was brought to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) and involves synchronizing breath with a progressive series of postures to produce intense internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. Done properly, the result is improved circulation, a light and strong body and a calm mind, adherents say.

“I took a year off from basketball about nine years ago as I was searching for something in life,” said Pettis, 46. “Yoga happened to be what helped bring some grounding in this search, along with many other things like meditation.”

Pettis played for Central Arizona College before transferring to the University of Florida and going on to be drafted into the WNBA by the Phoenix Mercury in 1997 in the first round (seventh overall). She played guard for eight seasons with Phoenix until 2001, for the Indiana Fever in 2002-03 and again with the Mercury in 2006.

In 2014 Pettis returned to the WNBA as an assistant coach with the Tulsa Shock. The team moved to Dallas before the start of the 2016 season and plays its home games at College Park Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington.

Since discovering yoga, she has been eager to involve as many people as she can to bring them the same peace and tranquility she has found.

“I teach to everyone, and I offer my classes to the players as well,” she said.

Among those Pettis has involved in yoga are her head coach, Fred Williams, and fellow assistants Ed Baldwin and Taj McWilliams-Franklin.

“I’ve done yoga since my days of playing, so I’m familiar with the physical and mental benefits of practicing,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “The girls on the team, some of them are new to yoga, but they’re all open. We incorporate it during warmup, and it’s become normal to them.

“They’re learning that there is no perfect way to practice yoga. It’s what you put into it every time. The team is fortunate to have a certified teacher on the team, who could be getting paid for her knowledge, doing this for free because she loves it that much,” McWilliams-Franklin said.

Pettis said she doesn’t aspire to be a head coach, though she wouldn’t turn down the opportunity.

“I don’t really have any plans to be head coach, but if that is the call for me then I will be ready,” she said.

She also understands why some people want to see more women coaching in the NBA, and perhaps the league will have a female head coach someday. San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon appears to be the frontrunner in that category.

But that’s not an issue for Pettis.

“For me, it does not matter if more women are in the NBA,” Pettis said. “If that is someone’s dream and true heart’s desire, I hope to see that they can achieve it.”

Pettis is glad to see the Metroplex have a WNBA team. She said it makes sense.

“This is a big city with a heart for sports, and to have a WNBA team in the mix with NFL, NBA makes it even more appealing,” Pettis said.

Whatever the future holds, Pettis knows it will include yoga. And whether it’s an elite professional athlete or a businessman or woman trying to escape the pressures of the world, she has the perfect solution to their stress.

“I would recommend yoga for everyone, not just athletes,” Pettis said, “because it is a practice that can benefit everyone in our daily lives.”

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