The tallest student attending the 9 a.m. hot yoga class at Vegas Hot! takes his place in the back of the room wearing a red Team USA workout shirt and shorts.
He’s been here before and knows what awaits him in the next hour.
“I need the strength, baby,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins says. “I need it.”
A slimmer, more nimble Cousins has spent the past 2 1/2 months dedicated to yoga, pilates and weights in heated rooms as part of his offseason training regimen. Next month, he’ll play in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro before his seventh NBA season in Sacramento.
On the night of the NBA draft last month, Cousins’ Twitter post “Lord give me the strength” could have been viewed as a shot at the Kings’ front office for adding another center in the first round. That’s until you unfold a yoga mat at Vegas Hot!
On Wednesday morning, Cousins went through a series of Venus poses in a room that is “therapeutically heated for 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity,” according to the studio.
Cousins, his friends and a sportswriter who joined him for the workout soon were dripping with sweat during poses, requiring most in the class to place a towel over their mats.
“I feel great,” Cousins said afterward. “It’s just that feeling of your body detoxing every workout, so that’s one thing. I feel a lot lighter on my feet. Of course I’ve slimmed down. I’m a lot more flexible, a lot more mobile, so it’s all coming together for me.”
Cousins is in the best condition of his professional career as he prepares for his Olympic debut with the U.S. national team. He said he hasn’t stepped on a scale and has no idea how much he weighs. But it’s safe to say he’s at least 20 pounds lighter and feels rejuvenated after treatment on his feet for tendinitis.
“He’s gotten in unbelievable shape for this,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He wants to be here and he wants to represent his country, and I’m proud of the progress he’s made.”
Cousins always has had an interest in hot yoga and would practice it occasionally. This summer, hot yoga and the grueling hot sculpting class he said led to his “give me strength” tweet have become part of his daily workout routine.
So before he even steps on the floor with Team USA, Cousins begins his day strengthening his hips, spine and shoulders in various yoga poses while working up a sweat at the urging of a former teammate.
“I really became consistent this offseason,” Cousins said. “Rajon Rondo is a big fan of yoga and he would push it to me, push it to me always.”
Becoming a yoga regular wasn’t easy. Asked to describe his first class, Cousins said, “It was awful.”
Instructor Alexis Wisniewski recalled her first time meeting Cousins in class.
“I asked him if he played basketball,” she said. “He said, ‘Sometimes.’ ”
Wisniewski said Cousins has progressed as a student and noted many professional athletes now enjoy the benefits of yoga. Many MMA fighters train in Las Vegas and take yoga classes with football players and dancers, among others.
Cousins raves about how loose and limber he feels on the court. But Cousins still has not conquered one level of training he said will break you down physically if you’re not ready. That’s the hot sculpting class, which combines yoga, pilates and weights to use “high intensity intervals” designed to “sculpt your muscles into a lean body.”
Cousins takes on the challenge of hot sculpting, even if it makes five-pound weights feel much heavier.
“That’s a whole other level,” he said. “That’s tough. I’m still trying to get the hang of that, but I enjoy that as well.”
So Cousins is getting his strength after all.