The start of another long season is here. The gruelling schedule, the pressure to succeed and all the external factors (school, family) add up quickly for hockey players.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or what level you play at, ignoring your body or ignoring your mind will have disastrous effects as the season rolls along.
Flexibility is a trait not often associated with hockey players. Hockey players build muscle and strength in the gym so they can shoot harder, check harder and withstand a beating from opponents.
Unfortunately, a person’s muscles can only be so powerful if they aren’t able to stretch to their full potential. A flexible muscle can, in essence, cover more ground and accomplish more. Goaltenders learned this secret years ago - a big reason they’re able to cover so much of the net is the ability of their limbs to bend in almost super-human fashion.
Forwards and defensemen need to work on their flexibility more. Increased flexibility will help players:
Here are 3 yoga poses hockey players can do at home to build their flexibility.
The Pose: With your feet in a stance wide enough that your ankles are below your wrists, turn your right foot to face the side of the mat and your left to face the front of your mat. Slide your back (right) foot into proper alignment behind your front (left) foot so the front heel dissects the back foot. Engage your core and tilt forward touching your left hand to your left ankle.
The Duration: 30 seconds on each side, remembering to keep breathing naturally.
The Benefit: The Triangle is an effective hip opener because it lengthens the inner thigh muscles. It’s also a nice chest opener.
The Pose: From a standing position, bend your left leg and slowly distribute all your weight into your left foot. Bring your right foot up behind you, holding with your right hand on the inside of your right foot. Inhale and stretch your left hand upwards, exhale, let go and kick your right foot up behind you.
The Duration: 30 seconds on each side, natural breath is important as this is a balance-focused pose.
The Benefit: The Lord of the Dance simulates skating and the balance required on ice. Hockey players bend forward as they’re skating fast, strengthening ankle muscles. This one is extra tough for young hockey players.
The Pose: From the downward dog position, inhale and lift your right leg up into 3 legged dog, then exhale and move that leg underneath you so your knee and shin drop down on mat by your hands. Your left leg is passive on the floor (no tension). Staying up on your hands, come down onto your forearms if you are comfortable. Be mindful not to overdo it, it’s easy to over-stretch hip flexors.
The Duration: 1 minute on each side
The Benefit: The Pigeon pose requires strength. It’s great for hip flexors on one side while the other side stretches the glutes and hamstring. This targets different places in different people depending on their own personal flexibility.
Hockey players function better when they’re focused on the task at hand, whether that task be doing homework, sitting down to family dinner or ripping one-t’s in practice.
As a game day routine or an every-morning habit, performing a few quick yoga poses can engage your body and mind for the entire day, no matter what your day looks like.