Love it or hate it, Stanley Cup season is upon us. In honour of “Canada’s national past time,” we’re naming hockey players who swear yoga helps keep them at the top of their game. Are you a hockey player looking to increase their speed, agility and performance? Get into the hot room with us, because there’s plenty of yoga for hockey players to go round!
Ryan Getzlaf does yoga, he says, to “keep limber.” But what about the spiritual side of the practice? “I’m not really that kind of a yoga guy,” says the Anaheim Ducks captain. “It’s more just the stretching.”
Challenging the misconception that yoga is “more effeminate” than other forms of exercise, San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton likes doing “Bikram Yoga, just to kind of sweat out.” Among his favourite asana apparel: Lululemon underwear, which he calls “really comfortable.”
[CREDIT: Men’s Health News]
Boston Bruins net-minder Tim Thomas, known for his acrobatic play between the pipes, added yoga to his training program after a former NHL goalie asked him if he’d ever considered it. “The more you go on in your career, the better it is to open up yourself to different ways of working out and becoming a better athlete. My whole career has been about proving to people that I can play in the NHL and that I can be very successful in the NHL, so yoga is a part of the journey.”
During his career, retired NHL forward Georges Laraque kept his 6-foot, 243-pound frame limber by adhering to a strict training regime that included yoga. “I’m strong, but not because I bench-press six plates,” he says. “If you do yoga, you don’t need to do weights that much because it’s like a weight exercise, but instead of using weights, you’re using your body.
“When you work on your flexibility it makes you less prone to injuries,” he explains, adding that he believes yoga “is really something that will help young athletes get stronger and improve their core. It can help them become better athletes.”
In addition to the physical benefits, Laraque also enjoys the meditative aspect of the practice. “The game can be stressful on your body and on you mentally,” he says. “You go there and it’s just really relaxing. It’s really quiet and it’s hard to explain but you don’t think of any problems or anything else. It’s so good and relaxing and purifying.”
Martin Havlat of the San Jose Sharks is known to strike a yoga pose or two in his spare time. In fact, he credits Bikram Yoga with helping him become more agile. “It’s kind of tough but great for balance,” he explains. “You feel pretty good after that.”
For ex U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team goaltender Sarah Tueting, playing hockey meant turning her mind off and concentrating on just one thing: stopping the puck. After retiring in 2002, she rediscovered that feeling in yoga, which she describes as “a place where I can be most fully present without the mind getting in the way.
While she took the occasional yoga class during her hockey career, Tueting says she wishes she’d known the broader benefits of yoga during her playing days. “Being able to hold these poses has a lot to do with focus,” she explains. “Absolutely I would have benefited [from yoga]. I think everybody can benefit from meditation. Hands down that should be part of everybody’s training, I think. It helps you let go of the negative thoughts, and if you’re thinking about a past goal you’re just going to get scored on again.”
Tueting, who has studied yoga in India, says the spiritual aspect of yoga – where mind and body feel truly connected – is the same sense an athlete feels when he or she is “in the zone. If you have a practice that allows you to continually visit that place, it will come back easier on the hockey rink.”
Let us know in the comments below if we forgot any other hockey players who do a little pranayama!