It's 105.3 degrees inside the studio at North Shore Yoga, a temperature meant to help loosen muscles and cause sweat. An apricot-colored light from the setting sun fills the room, casting shadows from venetian blinds onto rows of women in tight-fitting tanks of orange, yellow, purple.
And there among them, wearing a grey Chattanooga Mocs Football T-shirt, junior quarterback Tony Pastore pushes back into the position called "downward facing dog."
With four University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterbacks vying for the starting position this fall, Mr. Pastore, 22, said he started doing yoga on his own in January to give him an edge in impressing new coach Russ Huesman.
"I figured I've got one year of football left for the rest of my life, so I might as well go all out and give it everything I've got," he said. "I was like, 'I need to get more flexible. I'll try yoga.' That way, I'll be able to say that at least I tried everything I could to get that job."
In addition to his four-day-a-week weightlifting regimen, two days of circuit training and regular throwing practices, Mr. Pastore added up to four yoga classes a week and said it didn't take him long to notice the difference.
Height: 6 feet, 3 inches
Weight: 200 pounds
Major: Sports administration
Hometown: Woodstock, Ga.
When he first started, he couldn't even touch his toes, but he soon found his body more easily yielding into the postures, he said. His running stride lengthened, he lost 25 pounds, and he said the added flexibility he gained in his hips allowed him to squat-lift an additional 45 pounds.
UTC Director of Sports Performance Scott Brincks also noticed a difference. He said Mr. Pastore's lower back, hips and abdominal muscles seemed much stronger, a key aspect to moving well as a quarterback.
"Whatever your upper body strength is and your lower body strength is, if you don't have that mid-core to link the two, it doesn't matter what you bench and what you squat ... without a trunk stabilization aspect to your body, you might as well just be a wet noodle," Mr. Brincks said.
Achieving that, however, took a lot more effort than he had anticipated, Mr. Pastore said. The room was hot, the pace vigorous and the poses required a surprising amount of strength, he said. During his first few classes, he watched in awe as people seemed to effortlessly kick their legs from a seated position to headstands, or suspend their body above the floor by balancing on their arms.
"One day we were in the weight room doing the morning workout and he came in there saying, 'Yoga's so hard,'" said UTC defensive back Buster Skrine. "I was like, 'It can't be that hard because I know a lot of girls do it.'"
So the next day, Mr. Skrine and a car full of teammates tagged along to a "Power Yoga" class, and afterward Mr. Skrine changed his Facebook status to "Mad respect for yoga now."
North Shore Yoga co-owner and Instructor Jessica Jollie said people often are surprised by how challenging some styles of yoga are.
"It can be all you need to do for your entire day," she said. "I mean, I do not imagine that anyone else leaving here tonight wishes that they had gotten more cardiovascular (exercise) or strengthening. I think they got their fill and more."
Red-faced and dripping with sweat from Ms. Jollie's Thursday night Power class, Mr. Pastore chugged his second bottle of water in an hour and filled up another.
"It was rough," he said. "It was good, though. I feel good right now. I'm glad I'm done."