By: Erica Quam, Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor. Erica Quam has taught yoga to athletes and active individuals for more than 11 years. Erica first began teaching to her athletes during her 15-year career as a college swim coach. She believes yoga can help prevent injuries and reduce stress, while building strength, flexibility and confidence.
Yoga is a great practice to help hockey players recover faster, whether from a hard practice or tough competition.
This simple sequence is a great place to start if you’ve never done yoga before, or you think yoga is too zen for your competitive spirit.
Yoga Poses for Hockey Players — Ball Roll Out
A lacrosse ball (other types of ball work too, but a lacrosse ball offers the most ideal density)
While this isn’t a yoga pose, it is a great way to prep your fascia for yoga. This exercise will loosen up your whole back fascial line, from the bottoms of your feet, into your calves, achilles, hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
Set a timer for two minutes for each foot. Roll the bottom of one foot at a time over the surface of a lacrosse ball. Go slow and use a moderate amount of pressure. You can sit on the floor or in a chair. Try standing up to increase the pressure. Hold a wall or chair for more balance.
Pre and Post Test:
Try a pre and post to assess how far you can reach before and after this exercise. Bend forward from your hips keeping your back totally straight. Stop at the first point of resistance in your hamstrings. Take your hands into your shins and measure how far you get. Many people gain four or more inches just by rolling out your feet.
Now that your tissues are prepped, let’s get into your hamstrings.
Yoga Poses for Hockey Players — Three Part Hamstring Sequence
Supta Patangusthasana (Hand to the Big Toe pose)
Yoga belt and a blanket or towel to support your head
This pose is great for stretching your legs - especially your hamstrings. Some players will feel also this stretch their inner groin, IT band (tensor fascia late), calves and feet.
Part 1 - Set up:
Lie on your back with both knees bent.
Place the belt around your right foot. Walk your hands towards your foot so both arms are straight and relax your shoulders down towards the floor. Slide your hands down the strap as far as you need until you can straighten your knee. If your hamstrings are tight your right leg will be closer to the floor.
Part 1 - Action:
Press up into the strap with your right foot. Engage your quads and allow your hamstring to release. Keep your opposite knee bent (if your back feels tender). For a deeper stretch, extend your left leg out straight. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths on each leg.
Part 2 - Set up:
Take both straps into your right hand. Straighten your left leg with your heel in contact with the floor. Bring your right foot up towards your shoulder, rotate your leg out, and take your leg out to the side and down towards the floor. Only go as far as you can keep your left hip and leg undisturbed.
Part 2 - Action:
Stretch both legs fully. Cinch up the belt again if it becomes slack. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths.
Part 3 - Set up:
Take both straps into your left hand. Keep your left leg extended. Bring your right leg across towards your left side. Rotate your left leg out so your left little toe comes down to the floor. Extend your right arm out to the side with your hand in line with your shoulder.
Part 3 - Action:
Extend both legs again fully. For a deeper stretch, move your left heel closer towards the middle of your sticky mat. Revolve your belly and turn your head to look towards your right hand if it feels okay on your neck. If not, you can keep your head in a neutral position.
To make this sequence even better:
Keep your breath relaxed throughout all three stretches and focus on a longer exhaling breath. Breath from your diaphragm, so your belly expands on an inhale and relaxes on an exhale. Keep your eyes soft and the rest of your body relaxed, especially your hands, neck and shoulders. This relaxation breath helps turn on your parasympathetic nervous system, moving you from fight or flight into a rest and digest response.
Yoga Poses for Hockey Players — Inner Groin Restorative Pose
Two blocks; Two or three blankets or towels
Add this last yoga pose on the end of this sequence. You could even try this pose by itself before you go to bed to stretch and release your groin, a common tight area for many hockey players.
Place two blocks next to one another on the lowest height. Place one or two blankets on top of the blocks. Lie on your back and bend your knees, placing your feet on top of the props. For less stretch, have your hips further away from the blocks. For more stretch, move your hips closer.
Strongly press the bottoms of your feet together as you let your knees drop out to the sides. If your lower back feels tender, lift your hips inch or so off the floor and move your sit bones towards the blocks to lengthen your lower back. Set a timer for this one and stay for 5 to 10 minutes focusing on a long relaxed breath.
Straighten your legs with your knees over the blocks and blankets. Stay for another 5 to 10 minutes for deeper relaxation if you have time.