Yoga for Hockey

Hockey is a sport of fast action and high intensity, more fittingly paired with the Gun’s & Roses’ anthem “Welcome to the Jungle” than with the gentle acoustic guitar enjoyed in a warm, peaceful yoga studio.  All of that adrenaline, sweat and blood on the ice is probably the last thing you picture as you stretch out on your mat for your morning yoga session, but as coaches and players throughout Canada continue to see the benefits of yoga out there on the ice, you’ll start to notice that more and more of the cheerful grins you see in class, might be missing a few teeth.

Practicing yoga for hockey is a fairly new thing. Fifteen to twenty years ago, very few players or NHL teams included yoga in their training plans, but today, yoga is a key component of many successful hockey programs.  While all sports have the capability of taxing the body, hockey especially can create muscular imbalances, especially in the hips. A regular yoga practice can release tight hips, reducing the opportunity for injury while accelerating recovery after a hard practice or game.  Players will notice improved endurance, speed, balance and accuracy in their skating, while those tending goal will develop deeper concentration skills, faster reaction times and better flexibility, yielding even more spectacular splits and saves between the pipes.

If you are looking to a deep stretch, try these classes:

  • Hip Opening – Monday @ 6:15 pm, Tuesday and Thursday @ 9:30 am
  • Gentle Yoga with Tune Up Balls- Monday @ 7:30 pm
  • Shoulder Opening-Tuesday @ 6 pm
  • Hatha Yoga – Wednesday @ 10 am, Friday @ 9:30 am
  • Yogahour – Friday @ 12 noon and Sunday @ 10:30 am
  • Restorative – Sunday @ 1:30 pm and Thursday @ 1:15 pm

If you are looking to build strength, try these classes:

  • Yoga for Athletes- Saturday @ 12 noon
  • Any Hot or Warm Flow Class
  • Vinyasa Yoga- Wednesday @ 7:30 pm, Thursday @ 4:45 pm, Saturday @ 10 am, and Sunday @ 3 pm.
  • Fun with Inversions-Wednesday @ 7:30 pm

Here Are 5 Ways That Yoga Will Improve Your Performance On The Ice:

1. Flexibility

There’s no doubt about it, the most obvious benefit of yoga is the continual stretching of tight muscles, improving range and flexibility in an athlete’s limbs.  The more mobile a player is, the better performance you will see on the ice. You’ll feel those explosive intense movements later if you don’t prepare your muscles with some deep stretching first.

2. Balance

While crossovers, pivots and tight turns might seem common practice for many high intensity athletes, it is important to remember that hockey players perform these movements while balancing on two very narrow pieces of steel.  Those of us who grew up on the ice might think of skating as second only to walking, so the amount of work the lower joints of your body (ankles, knees and hips) actually do to keep you upright on skates can go un-noticed. Standing postures in yoga will lend to better balance, and a strengthened center of gravity. Better balance on a yoga mat means even better balance, and a more relaxed stance on the ice.  It’s a difference you will feel throughout your whole body.

3. Strength

Why should you put down the weights and pick up a yoga mat? Because every skill a hockey player performs starts from the core.  Hip, abdominal, chest and shoulder muscles are the roots of a players main armaments, and don’t forget the muscles in the back; tweak one of those bad boys the wrong way and see how far you get.  Too many hockey players’ focus solely on their chests and their legs; building core strength balances ALL of the muscles. There is no “I” in team, but there is a big one in “injury”, so it’s best to get all your muscles working together pronto.

4. Concentration

A lot happens when the puck drops, and the ability to stay clear minded, conscious of your body, and aware of your physical surroundings will help any player stay on point, and react quickly to changing plays. In the age of the cell phone, and the roof-mounted minivan TV, it’s becoming more difficult than ever to focus on the world around us, but when you’re on the ice and 240 lbs of stick wielding opponent is bearing down on you with a point to prove, the ability to breath, regroup, and react is crucial. I think we could all use a bit more mental clarity in our daily lives, and that’s where yoga really delivers.

5. Injury prevention and recovery

Yoga helps athletes get back on track after an injury. Physical therapists now routinely prescribe it for chronic back and muscular pain. Players can learn to feel each muscle, and recognize the initial sensations of pain so that early action can be taken to reduce stress on your body.  Hockey players are known for playing through the pain; taking the hits and finishing the game, but a bloody lip and some bruises are less of an issue than a seriously wrenched back or torn ligaments in the legs.  The ability to listen to one’s body, and know when serious injury is about to occur may be the difference between being on the ice to celebrate a win, or cheering on your team from the bench.

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