Fitness | Sarasota yoga instructor helps Derek Jeter, other top athletes improve flexibility

SARASOTA -- Professional athletes have discovered the benefits of improving their flexibility.

Simply put, yoga is a key ingredient to a lasting career.

Newly retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter joined the yoga bandwagon a few years ago and got his instruction from Sarasota's Kelly Prince.

After Prince became a yoga instructor in 2007, she began hearing from trainers of professional sports franchises.

That's how Jeter eventually found himself in her class of about 15 to 20 during Major League Baseball's offseason.

Following his first session, he requested private lessons at his home in Tampa once a week.

"At first he was a little hesitant to practice," Prince said. "I think he liked the benefit more than the actual class, because when you finish he could move better, he could bat better and he could run faster because he's more limber."

Now in retirement, the plan is for Jeter to continue working with Prince. The type of yoga they practice is Bikram, a high-intensity regimen.

"He would turn the heat on," Prince said. "He did hot yoga. He did classes in 100 degrees. ... The heat opens the muscles up. So when you're naturally tight, that heat is going to help your body to be able to stretch."

Prince said that some people do yoga for the exercise because their heart rate will go up. But Jeter does it more for the stretch.

"From being around him, what you see in the world like in the news and stuff about him, that's it, that's him," said Prince about Jeter, who spent his career in New York City away from controversy. "I don't think he puts up too much of a front. Because he's just as nice as he seems. ... He's smart, too. He doesn't really let people get too much of his personal life. I wasn't that close to him in that way."

Prince, who was photographed working with Jeter in a September New York Magazine article, wasn't always a yoga instructor.

She grew up in Sarasota as a member of the Sailor Circus and became a stunt performer in Orlando for Disney World and in Japan. Eventually, though, Prince's knew her calling was yoga when she took a class and was instantly hooked. So she went to California to get the training to become a teacher.

Prince opened a studio in 2007. That place, Body Heat Yoga, is off Fruitville Road in Sarasota near Honore Avenue.

"The studio is like my home," she said.

Jeter isn't the only athlete Prince has worked with. After having a studio in Tampa as well as Sarasota to accommodate her clients in both areas, Prince is back to her native Sarasota, where members of the Baltimore Orioles often get yoga instruction during spring training.

So, too, do IMG Academy athletes.

IMG Academy senior left-handed pitcher Logan Allen said yoga benefits him.

"A lot of people were very skeptical about it," Allen said. "When I did it with IMG ... I could tell a difference on the field just by it was easier for me to get loose. If I was pitching, I wasn't having problems stretching out on the mound as much. ... It helped out a lot. It keeps injury prevention. It's good for injuries. I don't have to worry about pulling a hamstring or anything."

Prince has an army of instructors, one of which heads to IMG's private campus.

Allen said he did an eight-week class, but plans to start again.

First-time participants get 10 days unlimited for $20.

"I treat my clients here the same as I am going to treat my athletes," Prince said.