Yoga and Hockey: Teaching Yoga to Athletes

Since the 90’s, in most yoga classes, women typically often outnumber men by a 5:1 ratio. Be it the impression of needed flexibility, the slow paced movements, connecting with the emotions, or just boredom, men are reluctant to enter yoga studios. Yet, with the rise in popularity of yoga all over the world, men have started to trickle into classes as it has become more trendy. The increase in popularity by men is possibly related to the increase in male athletes integrating yoga into their sports training routines. Many athletes are finding that a yoga practice in conjunction with their regular sports training has multiple benefits.

Though I hardly had any exposure to winter sports growing up in southern California, a popular professional sport in Scandinavia is ice hockey. A majority of hockey injuries, besides head injuries, are shoulder dislocation, inflammation of the elbow, fractures of the wrist, and muscular injuries related to the hip, groin, knee, and lower back. Many of these are common injuries in American football as well. Which raises the question, if one combines yoga and hockey, would an activity like yoga on ice, even be beneficial and reduce injury?

Nowadays it is easy to find yoga classes of every form and style. Partner (acro) yoga, aqua water yoga, skateboard yoga, and yoga on surfboards. From its humble Indian roots, yoga has become a booming business. So, we decided to jump on the bandwagon with yoga and hockey and develop a regiment ideal to counter the strains these ice skaters undergo on the ice.

Yoga and Hockey

Yoga on ice a new trend ?? Probably not the best thing for most people, but combining yoga and hockey could have great benefits.

To clarify, I am not teaching yoga on ice—I am trying to prevent injuries for athletes, not have them slip around doing poses like Bambi-on-ice. But we are integrating yoga and hockey, while keeping the two activities traditional in form and in separate rooms. By no means do I think yoga could prevent head or bone injuries, but I do think yoga and hockey or any sport could improve the performance ability of that sport and prevent many injuries.

Since June, we have combined yoga and hockey with two of the goalies of the professional hockey team, Malmö Redhawks, in Malmö, Sweden. Having now lived in Scandinavia for 8 months, I am developing a greater understanding of how Scandinavians accomplish their work-life balance. One of the biggest ways people achieve this balance is through vacation or time off. With this in mind, we wanted to take it one step further by integrating in health and wellness as well. Still in the beginning stages of our concept, we developed Yoga n’ Spice with the idea that we could reach out businesses and athletes, merging the gap between work and life.

Yoga and hockey

People often keep work, life, and wellness separate, but merging the three could create a happier you!

We know that men typically do not do yoga. Additionally, people who sit in an office all day enjoy the flexibility of the gym and outdoor activities, instead of being limited to specific yoga classes. Regardless of the Scandinavian work-life balance concept, people seem to either work or live with no integration in between. Therefore, one of the goals of Yoga n’ Spice is to come to the individual or group and bring work, life, happiness, and wellness.

With yoga and athletics, I have been particular interested to see if we could influence performance ability and combat injuries. It has been fun teaching athletes because unlike some who have never trained before, these hockey players are not only fit and strong but also have a great body awareness and mobility. While most of the time classes have been once a week, I asked if they found benefits with the combination of yoga and hockey.

Yoga on Ice

Yoga n’ Spice teaching yoga to the goalies of the Malmö Redhawks.

Jonas Gunnarsson told us that he has never actually tried yoga before this summer, but that goalies need to be flexible when out on the ice. He admitted feeling a bit uncomfortable at first, but now despite knowing that there is a long way to go, he feels “it is going the right direction and that it is the most important thing for (him) right now.”

Other benefits of adding yoga aside from flexibility? Jonas divulged that:

“Playing as a goalkeeper is also mentally challenging. To learn how to relax out on the ice and stay calm is very important and the breathing can help (him) a lot with that. So, that part is just as important as the flexibility.”

Nothing for me was more inspirational than hearing this from him. For me, I was drawn to yoga as a way of healing, but I can see that it has tons of benefits, not just for those who are seeking peace or spirituality. Try integrating yoga into your routine, you will probably find some unexpected benefits.

Don’t have enough time? Try this fast yoga sequence every morning:



Images from herehere and here

Tiffany Lee
29 Aug 2014

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