These days Yoga is becoming more accepted as a beneficial practice in increasing athletic performance. What is most exciting about this change is that professional sports teams as well as college level athletic departments are beginning to enforce the necessity of using yoga to keep their athletes performing well and injury free. Hockey is one professional sport which, over the past few years, has been making a lot of headway in the yoga community (which is in many ways thanks to the positive effects of yoga on the performance of NHL goalie Tim Thomas).
It was evident while watching Thomas' performance in the net that his flexibility and state of composure were far beyond the level of most other professional NHL athletes. When asked about his training the year he won the Stanley Cup, Thomas spoke of the addition of yoga into this training schedule and the positive effect it had on his athletic performance. So for all you hockey lovers out there, try taking a break from your skates and start rolling out your yoga mat. You will be amazed at how this once considered "simple" practice will increase your skills as a hockey player.
Build Focus - Warrior One Pose
While yoga is definitely known for being a non-violent practice, the Warrior pose is an incredibly beneficial posture meant to reflect the “spiritual warrior”, who resides within us all. When it comes to hockey, being both strong and focused are two key components to having a successful skate. Not only does this pose build strength in your legs but it also gives you a sense of focus needed to attack each "battle" as it is thrown your way.
Improve Your Speed - Chair Pose
When it comes to hockey players, one thing is for certain: Quad strength is a must in getting you up and down the ice as quickly as possible. In yoga, not many other poses compare to the Chair pose for building quad strength. Overall, your stride is all about the power you can generate from your legs, which mostly resides in your quads. With that being said, the stronger your quadriceps are, the faster you can skate, and the faster you will get to the puck. Try making this pose a little more difficult by lifting your toes up off the ground while sitting back further onto your heels. These modifications will increase the success you have in strengthening your legs in this posture.
Stay Balanced - Tree Pose
In essence skating is all about having good balance. Whether you are carrying the puck into the offensive zone, or trying to make your way back down the ice for a defensive play, balance is important in all aspects of skating. So get ready for your next check on the ice, by practicing the Yoga Tree pose to improve your balance. Not only will this pose improve your ability to center your body when faced with an off balance moment, but it will also help to re-stabilize your body when forced off center on the ice.
Strengthen Your Core - Plank Pose
Lastly, having a strong core is influential in pulling the benefits of the prior three poses together. Whether you are aware of it or not, your core is always working to keep you centered, balanced, and in control which is why it is so important to work core exercises into your daily workout routine. Specifically, the Plank pose is an excellent posture to practice, which will increase the strength in both your core and your arms. In order to make this posture more difficult try lifting one leg up of the ground at a time. By doing this you will increase the need to maintain balance while contracting your core at the same time.
So the next time you are itching to lace up your skates, try taking 30 minutes to work your way through some of the different postures we discussed here. I guarantee that if you commit to including yoga into your weekly workout routine, the benefits you will see on the ice will surpass any prior expectations.
Happy Skating and namaste!