Yoga Helps Cosmos Finish Regular Season Strong

Ruben Bover is one Cosmos player that turned to yoga to strengthen his game this season.
Published Nov 4, 2015

Jimmy Maurer, Ruben Bover and John Neeskens have all had milestone years with the New York Cosmos. Maurer tallied 12 shutouts in the regular season, posted a formidable 0.93 GAA (goals against average) and was named NASL Player of the Month back in April.

Bover and Neeskens started the year on Cosmos B, helping the reserve side capture an NPSL championship in its inaugural campaign. Both were swiftly promoted to the first team, and Bover scored his first goal with the top squad in October.

Besides playing for the same club, what do all three players have in common?

“This is the first year I’ve started doing yoga,” Maurer told “It’s great. I really enjoy it. The yoga I’ve done is more flexibility and relaxation, helping you get a good stretch in after hard training sessions.”

Jason Papalio, a certified yoga coach that specializes in athletic recovery, joined the Cosmos this season. A Stony Brook University graduate, Papalio focuses on sport-specific movement preparation and efficiency plus injury prevention.

“Instead of doing a more flowing type of yoga, it’s more beneficial to these athletes that we stay in the poses a little longer,” said Papalio. “I try to work on things that I think are going to benefit them as athletes. They’re running a lot, so we do a lot of stuff for their feet, Achilles, toes, hamstrings and hips.

“If we can get them to move a little better and move more efficiently, it can help them play at a higher level. They also get to rest and recover while doing it.”

Post-training yoga sessions for the first team and Cosmos B became a semi-weekly occurrence at the training ground on Long Island. Many of the players – Maurer, Bover and Neeskens included – were novices when the year began but have reaped the benefits of Papalio’s instruction.

“Before this, I only tried hot yoga once before when I was on holiday,” Bover said. “There was a class next to where I stayed. It was tough. I wasn’t very good at stretching.

“Now that I’ve done a few sessions here I feel like it's beneficial. It’s not the only thing that has helped me succeed this year, but obviously it’s something that helps your body. When your body is better you play better.”

Maurer has started 28 of 30 league matches in 2015, plus an assortment of preseason, U.S. Open Cup and international friendly fixtures. He’s been playing competitive soccer nine months straight, since leading the Cosmos to Lunar New Year Cup glory in a penalty shootout win over South China AA on February 19. Neeskens and Bover ceaselessly transitioned from the 13-game NPSL summer slate into the 20-game NASL Fall Season.

Being a professional soccer player is exhausting nearly all year round, so Papalio says the recuperative aspects of what he teaches are fundamental.

“I think it definitely provides an advantage because without it, you’re not getting the appropriate rest, recovery and regeneration,” he said. “The players also gain flexibility. They gain better breathing and they gain a calmer state of mind. Those things can help them, too.”

“It’s definitely helped me be a better player on the field,” said Neeskens. “When you’ve been running around on the training pitch and your muscles are tired, it’s great to have someone show you the right way to stretch, relieve the tension in your muscles and prepare for the next day.”

The Cosmos finished the campaign on top of the NASL Combined Season Standings. Now they'll begin their postseason run this Saturday afternoon at Coney Island’s MCU Park, hosting the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in The Championship Semifinals.

"It’s rewarding to see the guys doing well,” said Papalio. “If I can get them to feel more, even if something feels tight and they feel that, hopefully that can reduce the chance of injury.”

For more on Papalio's work as an athletic recovery specialist, visit