In a sport defined by brute strength and physicality, the Power ended practice Tuesday and Wednesday with … yoga.
Unorthodox and entertaining as it might have been — like the moment when a 275-pound lineman asked the petite instructor beforehand not to go too hard on him — for coach Ron James, who joined his team in the workout, it served an important purpose.
With the regular season two-thirds completed, there is inevitable wear and tear on players, the kind of things yoga can help stretch, heal and perhaps prevent.
The Power will need good health as it heads into a critical late-season stretch.
Of the Power’s final six games, four will be against divisional opponents, compared to the four such matchups in its first 12 games.
It’s the sort of schedule James has seen before in his 17-year Arena Football League career, although not necessarily to this extent.
Because of that, he knows how important this portion of the season will be.
“The challenge really is to make sure you’re playing sharp at the end of the year, no matter who you’re playing,” James said.
“If you’re playing division opponents, it’s trying to get yourself in playoff position.”
At 9-3, the Power is in second place in its division, three games ahead of both Philadelphia and Iowa while trailing Cleveland Gladiators by 11⁄2 games, which, given Cleveland’s 2-1 advantage in the season series, is effectively a 21⁄2-game lead.
The stretch of divisional games begins tonight at Philadelphia against a Soul team the Power beat, 65-57, May 3.
At 57.9 points per game, the Soul sports one of the league’s most potent offenses.
It is led by an efficient quarterback in Dan Raudabaugh and a talented cadre of receivers that features such players as Ryan McDaniel and Anthony “Tiger” Jones.
Caught in a deadlock of 6-6 teams fighting for a playoff spot, Philadelphia, the two-time defending conference champion, has other motivational factors working in its favor.
“If you look at the logjam at 6-6 right now with three different teams that have that record, it’s important for them, too,” James said.
“We understand the sense of desperation that they’ll have facing us.
“We just have to make sure we’re up for the task.”
The Power has been dogged by recent injuries.
Defensive back Virgil Gray, who leads the team with eight interceptions this season, will not play tonight because of a high ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the past three games.
Wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez, nagged by an ankle injury much of the season, missed the victory against New Orleans last week. But he is expected to return.
A three-game lead for a playoff spot means a great deal to the Power, but improving from within is the team’s main priority for now.
“Satchel Paige always said ‘Don’t look back, someone may be gaining on you,’ ” James said.
“That’s kind of the mentality we have.”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.