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Yoga for Hockey Players

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Photo by Klaus Nielsen

Yoga can be great for hockey players. It helps you to relax, improve your breathing and increase your overall mobility

By Tim Turk, NHL Shooting & Scoring coach

You might not think of hockey players as the type to practice yoga, but it can be very beneficial to improving on-ice performance. Many professional hockey players do yoga on a regular basis, often as a supplemental workout to their standard routine.

Yoga has benefited many people by helping them to relax, improving their breathing and increasing their overall mobility. These are all things that can be advantageous to hockey players, so it is easy to see why a regular yoga routine can be desirable for professional athletes. Here are some of the key benefits that hockey players can receive from doing yoga.

Stress Relief

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Hockey players of all backgrounds experience stress in their everyday life, just like any other person. This is true whether they are a star professional on a winning team or a rec league player with a regular 9 to 5 job. Yoga is proven to reduce stress hormones, and this is a major benefit for anybody who plays hockey. Getting rid of everyday stress can allow you to focus more on your game and put in a better performance without worrying about external distractions when you are playing.

It is helpful to have less stress even when you are not on the ice. The stress relief that yoga provides means that you won’t beat yourself up over a poor performance and dwell on the losses. This will ensure that you are more prepared for your next game.

Yoga for Hockey Players Improves Breathing

Regular yoga practice can improve your overall breathing techniques, allowing you to have larger lung capacity and more efficient delivery of oxygen to your organs. Hockey is a high-intensity sport that requires some long bursts of action, so it makes sense that players should want to improve their breathing techniques. By taking advantage of the training that yoga provides, players can have more endurance and will be ready to take on longer shifts. They will also be ready to get back on the ice more quickly between shifts thanks to increased lung capacity.

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation is a detriment to anybody but can especially affect hockey players who are looking to optimize their performance. Reduced inflammation means that you experience shorter recovery times between workouts and will have a more highly functioning body in multiple aspects. This translates to the ice rink as players without inflammation will have higher energy levels and will show more strength in their play.

Better Balance

The poses in yoga often focus on standing on one leg or holding certain postures for a lengthy amount of time. Considering that hockey is played on skates, balance is an essential part of the game. While most hockey players have developed a strong sense of balance already, yoga can improve upon this and allow them more room to make quick pivots, explosive crossovers and enhance their shot. Balance is not often a major part of practice, so supplementing with yoga can have great results on the ice.

Improved Muscle Function

This area concerns inflammation and breathing, as oxygen levels will be higher and more consistent throughout the musculoskeletal system of a hockey player who practices yoga. Again, this allows for shorter rest periods between shifts but also means that the player is becoming more efficient as they do not have to exert themselves as much to show their strength.

As you continue to build your muscles and increase their efficiency, you will also benefit from shorter recovery times. Your body won’t need to compensate as much when you are playing, making it less likely that you’ll suffer from injury. Even if you do sustain a minor injury, you will be back up and running in less time thanks to your yoga training.

Yoga for Hockey Players Increases Overall Mobility

Mobility is important for any athlete, and hockey players are no different. Yoga has many moves that help to open up certain muscles and give people higher levels of agility and mobility. This is clearly helpful to hockey players who need to skate, shoot, block shots and pass while avoiding big hits from rival players. In addition to more mobility on the ice, this will result in better recovery times after games, which means that players will be more prepared for their next game as opposed to someone who does not do yoga.

Keep in mind that mobility is not just flexibility, although it does play a big role. This flexibility will lead to increased power and speed, meaning you will be a tougher opponent no matter who you are going up against.

Greater Levels of Focus

The mental aspect of both yoga and hockey are very real, and it is vital to be as focused as possible when taking to the ice. Yoga cultivates higher focus in several ways. Breathing is one way that has already been covered, as getting more oxygen to your brain will provide more clarity and focus. However, the moves themselves also require intense concentration, and learning and improving upon them will improve focus in the long run.

The more focused you are on the ice, the more you will be able to make quick decisions and outperform your opponents. Physical strength and speed are important, but strong mental fortitude and focus are just as big of a part of the game. The player with stronger focus has a major edge in competition.

Overall Mental and Physical Improvement

As we have discussed, yoga is a fantastic instrument for improving both your mental and physical abilities. Hockey players can get many benefits from practicing yoga on a regular basis—whether on their own or in a class. From improved focus and decreased stress, to better recovery and more strength, there are plenty of reasons for hockey players to pick up a yoga mat and learn some new poses.

Yoga may not carry the aura of toughness that being a hockey player does, but in the long run you’ll be a lot tougher—both mentally and physically—if you take up this beneficial practice.

Tim Turk has been an NHL Shooting and Scoring coach for over 25 years, working with organizations like the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Arizona Coyotes, and many National Programs abroad. He also works with minor hockey teams, coaches and players of all ages and levels, specializing in Hockey Shooting, Passing and Puck Protection. For more information visit timturkhockey.com. Train with an NHL Shooting and Scoring Coach.

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