Visualization is an important tool for bantam and midget-aged hockey players.
The act of picturing yourself as a forward with the puck on a 2 on 1 or a goaltender facing down a breakaway helps relieve the pressure once that situation becomes a reality.
However, the true value of visualizing is in the practice it takes to completely relax and block out other thoughts.
The key to visualization is one of the most important elements hockey players can learn from yoga: focus.
Including focus, here's five benefits of yoga for hockey players.
The most obvious benefit is the constant stretching of muscles. When the limbs of a hockey player improve their range and mobility, the player will naturally be able to perform at a higher rate on the ice. For example, increased range in ankle and calf muscles will lead to more explosiveness and overall faster skating.
It’s easy to forget that hockey players perform turns, crossovers and pivots all while standing on two pieces of steel 5 millimetres in width. Standing postures in the yoga studio help strengthen the athlete’s centre of gravity as well as the lower joints - ankles, knees and hips. Increased balance in the yoga studio means increased balance on skates.
Every skill a hockey player performs starts from the core. Hip, abdominal, chest and shoulder muscles are the roots of a players main weapons (the arms and legs), not to mention the all-important back muscles. Too many hockey players train just their chests and their legs - building core strength balances all the muscles.
For hockey players, being conscious about their bodies, their emotional state and their physical surroundings helps them eliminate distractions and focus on the task at hand. This is a tough task in an age of constant stimuli. Concentrating on routine manoeuvres like downward dog, shooting or skating makes complex situations easier to handle.
Breath-in postures in yoga also create spacial and mental awareness, which transfers seamlessly to the sequential nature of hockey (45 seconds on, 3 minutes off, repeat).
Just committing to a non-traditional training method such as yoga requires a degree of dedication. Improved flexibility, balance, strength & focus - all these elements are maximized through dedication. Dedication is essential to yoga in multiple ways:
Yoga helps reinforce positive values in hockey players they may not get from traditional on or off-ice training methods. We all want to be more dedicated - the natural exertion of yoga demonstrates the power we hold within our bodies as well as our minds.
The best hockey players at every level perform multiple skills simultaneously at a proficient level. Yoga stabilizes not only the physical demands on the body necessary to execute complex sequential skills, but mental awarness as well.
Jerret Raymond, a second-year bantam player at the North Shore Winter Club, has been doing yoga since the beginning of May as part of his training program at ISIS.
“I really enjoy it, it’s helped my flexibility and my balance has definitely improved. It works your core a lot so you build some great core strength. It’s fun, too. Not always totally serious, the moves are challenging so sometimes it’s entertaining when people, uh, you know …”
“Yeah I guess. For hockey players it really helps with preventing injuries. When you get hit in a game you won’t get hurt as easy because your balance is improved and your body is just more able to bend further. You're more fit, more solid on your skates.”
The mental side of yoga has been important for Jerret as well.
"The classes help you focus. You need to listen closely or else you might …”
“Miss a pose."
Oh, ok. What would you say to another hockey player about yoga?
"Do it. I love it, it’s really helped me in more ways than one.”
This sequence is measured in two metrics yoga can help develop:
The strength and stamina required to perform this sequence without being checked is massive and directly relates to the strength and stamina of your surroundings; your teammates, your opponents and the situation you're faced with.
...that all sounds hard. I think I've earned a relaxing De-Stress Yoga class*.
*Sundays, 11:15am - 12:15pm, North Shore Winter Club Yoga Studio
Want to try yoga? Hatha yoga combines gentle, body-inclusive poses and is a great way to introduce yourself to yoga.
Hatha classes are 9am - 10am on Mondays.
Whether you’re a guest or a member, drop in and give it a try!