If you are an active Hockey Player, than chances are when you’re not on the ice, you are doing weight training in the gym or doing some sort of off ice training. You also probably hit the links in the summertime or compete in some other sport to stay active.
If you are a beer league hero, than you are most likely the life of the party.
Either way, no judgement.
But do you do yoga?
Stretching is prominent in hockey, starting from the minor leagues, all the way up to the NHL. Before the game, players usually take part in a group stretch and/or some activity to get loose. This is usually taught to us at a young age and is continually passed down.
The benefits of stretching and more importantly yoga, go far beyond than being just a ritual that we are told is good to do.
If you are serious and passionate about taking your game to the next level, below are five reasons why you should do yoga.
The First Reason:
IMPROVED FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION
Have you ever experienced a flow state on or off the ice where you were just completely in the zone, and felt like you could do anything with little to no effort or thought. I like to think that during these flow like states, we have three things in common. Mental Clarity, Present Moment Awareness(Concentration), and Good Vibes. It feels amazing being in a flow state and having the belief and conviction that we can accomplish anything and everything.
Yoga, along with meditation and pranayama breathing exercises are an excellent and organic way to achieve clarity, concentration and positive vibrations. By focusing on our breath, we reduce the clutter that is in our mind and we become more tapped into the present moment. When we add in asanas(yoga poses) and movements with our body while keeping awareness on our breath, we start to become even more clear.
When we move our body with our breath and get to a point where we are no longer thinking anything, thats when you know you are dialled into the present moment and our focus is at it’s finest. Tap into this state before a game and notice what happens.
Not to mention, doing some kind of yoga usually always makes us feel good afterward. During some sessions, we may even experience one of those natural euphoric yoga highs that are hard to put into words. And when we feel good, we generally feel more good about ourselves and our abilities. We fee light and loose.
The Second Reason:
THE POWER OF INTENTION AND VISUALIZING
Intention setting is very common in yoga classes. Intentions are also very powerful. Oftentimes, whether it’s on or off the ice, people have a tendency of going through the motions. In other words, they let the game happen to them or they let the day, week, month or year just simply happen to them.
An Intention allows us to use our focus and concentration that we just talked about above and use it to help manifest what we want to accomplish. Think of it as our aim.
Having this unwavering focus on what you intend and belief that it will happen, makes you a threat on a whole new level to the opposing team.
Some examples of intention setting for a pre game yoga sequence could be:
I INTEND TO PLAY THE BEST GAME I’VE EVER PLAYED
I INTEND TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO HELP MY TEAM WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Or, it could be more specific such as
I INTEND TO GET TWO GOALS AND ONE ASSIST TONIGHT
I INTEND TO WIN EVERY PUCK BATTLE ALONG THE BOARDS
I INTEND TO REGISTER 5 SHOTS ON GOAL AND DRAW ONE PENALTY.
As Bradley Cooper said in his movie American Sniper, “Aim small, miss small”. In other words the more specific your intention/aim is, if you come short of it, it will only be by a small margin.
Intentions are great on the ice and in everyday life as well!
When you visualize, you are using the powerful force that is the law of attraction. Seeing in your minds eye, accomplishing what you intend to do goes a long way. See yourself winning every loose puck battle, scoring two beautiful goals and noticing one assist. With your eyes closed, see yourself doing these things through the lens of your own eyes and you will be attracting it to you in reality.
If I have any advice for this process, it would be to let go/detach from the way it will happen. Let go of how and when it will come to you and just have the conviction and belief that it will. When you bake a cake, you don’t constantly open the oven every 5 minutes to see if its done yet, you just let it bake until the timer goes off. Same principle applies when setting intentions.
After you set an intention and visualize, let it go. Don’t think about it, just play your game. When it does happen, trust me, it’s one of the coolest feelings ever.
The Third Reason:
REDUCE RISK OF INJURY
This is probably the more common reason to do yoga and stretch before a game. No one wants to get an injury during a game that could keep them out for weeks because they didn’t stretch properly before, such as a groin injury.
A regular practice of yoga increases flexibility and balance which makes you more solid on your feet and less likely to experience any awkward falls, as hockey is a very fast paced game.
Yoga promotes bone health and alignment of the tendons and ligaments. It also strengthens and lengthens the spine and muscles which also help prevent injuries.
The Fourth Reason:
WARMS UP AND LOOSENS THE BODY
Warming up the body before a game is essential to hockey players. That is why you always see them kicking a soccer ball before they put their equipment on. That is also why they pretty much have a whole period dedicated to warming up on the ice before the game even begins in the NHL.
Warming up the body increases the temperature of our blood which allows for more oxygen to be transported to our muscles during the game.
Yoga is great way to stretch and open up the main areas of the body that we use when we play hockey. These main groups are the hips and hip flexors, groin, hamstrings, quads, shoulders and back. When you stretch these muscles in yoga, you feel more loose, mobile and relaxed in these areas which carry over to the game.
The Fifth Reason:
REST, RECOVER AND RESTORE THE BODY
Some of you may be more familiar with recovering your body after a game and participate in activities such as ice baths. To make a long story short, rest is very important for your body especially after going all out for 60 minutes. Hockey is very fast paced and hard fought game. Winning battles, taking hits to make a play and blocking shots can leave a lot of wear and tear on your body. As I’m sure you already know, that’s just part of the game and theres no better feeling than going to war with your teammates.
Ice baths are great, but yoga, especially Yin Yoga, is a great addition to your post game routine. Yin Yoga is my favourite type of yoga. To give you a brief rundown, in yin yoga we usually hold our poses for 2 to 7 minutes long which gives you that restful and therapeutic effect afterward. The benefit of this style is that it really gives you a deep stretch in the muscles. When you focus on your breath and just embrace each pose, it makes you feel extremely relaxed and “zen’d out”.
The other benefits of doing Yin Yoga after a hockey game are it reduces stress, relieves tension, increases flexibility, increases circulation and balances the yang(fast paced) environment of just playing hockey for 60 minutes.
Rest and sleep in particular is also very important for hockey players. Doing Yin Yoga before you turn out the lights is almost like a cheat code for having a better sleep. Yin Yoga can be beneficial at any time during the day, but because of its relaxing nature, it is amazing to do before bed.
NHL Veterans Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton are active Yogis.
Below are two yoga videos designed specifically for Hockey Players. One is a 15 Minute Pre Game sequence that has an emphasis on opening up the hips. The other is a 40 Minute Post Game Yin Yoga to relax and restore. If you haven’t already, be sure to like and subscribe, and share it with another beauty who you think would enjoy.
Some other helpful links: https://www.hockeytraining.com/speed-up-recovery/ and https://www.yogiapproved.com/yoga/yin-yoga-benefits/ and https://www.nhl.com/capitals/news/yoga-for-hockey-players/c-284641210