The 3-month gap between the Stanley Cup final and pre-season beginnings can leave a puck sized void in the hearts of hockey enthusiasts everywhere. Here’s a little bit of yoga to help you keep up your game during these frozen-pond free months. Throw off your bladed booties and thermal knee-highs and let your toesies wiggle about freely!
Hold each pose for 5-8 breaths. Try all of the standing poses in sequence on one side then move to the other before hitting the floor.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Supta Baddha konasana is a great restorative hip opener. If this pose feels funky on your knees or if you have groin strain, make a larger diamond and prop up some blocks, pillows, blankets or even books under them. The longer you lay here, the more the body will relax into the stretch- grab the latest issue of your favorite sports magazine and have a read while on your back.
Enjoy this twist to help release the back and shoulders. Let the hips stack on top of each other. If you feel strain in the lower back, keep both knees bent and together. Melt into the twist. Hold as long as you like.
Upward Plank Pose
Here's a delicious stretch that is strengthening too! Actively role the shoulders away from the ears and down the back. If it feels okay for your neck, extend the head back. Spread the fingers wide and press into the knuckles to take pressure off the wrists. A modification of this pose is to practice it with the knees bent and the shins at a 90 degree angle with the thighs.
Crow is a fun and all encompassing arm balance. This pose asks the body to come into a tiny ball in order to balance with the knees on the upper arms. Muscles working hard to keep you in this pose include the adductors, the groins, the upper abdominals, and the deltoids.
Dolphin or Downward Dog
Strengthening the shoulders is a great way to protect against dislocation when being checked into the boards. Practice dolphin with great care. Ensure that the elbows are parallel and directly under the shoulders. Go gingerly into this pose if you have rotator cuff injuries. If you're in need of more of a calf and hamstring stretch, stay in downward facing dog instead.
Hugely strengthening on the back muscles, Warrior III is also a challenging balance! Find a point of focus and extend your leg back with as much gusto as the reach of your arms in front of you. If you can steady yourself in this pose for a sustained period of time off the ice, it is a guarantee that once back in the rink you'll be falling far less.
This pose will strengthen the groins and stretch out the hip flexors. Lifting the torso off the leg will allow the spine to further elongate. Open your chest and push the shoulders away from the ears. The forward reach of the upper body in this pose mimics the explosive action of skating forward.
A simple and all around great core strengthener! Actively push the heels back while hugging the thigh muscles to the bones. Keep the breath slow and steady here. Make sure that the neck is a continuation of a long spine by slightly tucking the chin toward the chest.
Warrior II Balance
Borrowed from Budokon, this beautiful balance is splendid for so many reasons - the forward reach of the torso and extension of the back leg demand that you engage the core and lengthen the spine. Further, with open hips and a leg up, the gluteus medius is engaged, a key muscle in the pushing action of a breakaway skate.
Helps to strengthen the thighs, opens the hips, improves stamina, stretches and strengthens the groins and the adductors. This pose is great for hockey players because it will help you maintain your grounding and stability while stretching areas often problematic. If you have a recent groin pull or adductor injury, do not go to the full maximum of your Warrior. Pull out of the pose just enough so that the strain goes away. Hold only for 2-3 breaths straighten the front leg and try again for 2-3 more breaths. Keep up this method until you feel stronger.