Yoga for hockey is a relatively new thing. Fifteen years ago, very few players or NHL teams included yoga in their conditioning programs. Today, yoga is a key component of many successful hockey programs. But there are many varieties of yoga practices and not all of them are suitable or beneficial for hockey.
Compared to other sports, hockey creates muscular imbalances, especially in the hips. A regular yoga practice can release tight hips, improve skating, reduce the chance of injury and accelerate recovery after a hard practice or game. The beauty of yoga is that it can be done anywhere without any special equipment. You just need a mat.
A yoga session can be a great team-building activity on an off night and is a option for dryland conditioning. Here are some things to consider before including yoga in your hockey program.
Choose the right age. I know frompersonal experience that yoga before PeeWee is a tough sell. The kids are still flexible and if they’re not, they don’t want to work at it. They have difficulty focusing on the postures and in some cases dads don’t support the activity in terms of time or expense for the team. (The moms who did yoga thought it was great for their overstimulated boys.)
When the kids start to grow and they get stronger, they lose their flexibility and that’s when they will feel the benefits of yoga and will be motivated to do it more often.
Choose the right instructor. A male instructor for boys and a female instructor for girls is best. I find that this way, younger players can relate to the “coach” better and older players are less self-conscious.
Choose the right style of yoga. Yoga comes in many flavours and can very confusing for a coach who doesn’t know their way around a yoga mat.
The best style of yoga for hockey players is a strong flowing practice like Power Yoga. It’s physical, challenges balance, develops the core and focuses on legs and hips. Of course, there is lots of flexibility and joint mobility work included as well.
Choose the right frequency. For PeeWee and Bantam players, a one-hour yoga session per week is very effective. It introduces them to the importance of flexibility and recovery and is not too demanding on time. For Midget players, I recommend twice a week for maintenance during the season and three times a week in the off-season as part of a conditioning program. Not all sessions need to an hour, however. A 20-minute session focused on hips is very manageable will yield immediate results and benefits.
Many pros do a yoga-style session as part of their recovery program the morning after every game.
Yoga is very effective for preventing injury and for promoting recovery. The harder you train, the more yoga you should do.Back to Top
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