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Hockey Exercises for Athletes - Yoga - Strength & Flexibility - Tom Swales Blog - Expert Training - Learn from the Pros - Canada, USA, Europe

The Benefits of Yoga for Sport Performance 


By:  Tom Swales, PT, MPT, ATC, CSCS 

       President, Concept of Movement Ltd.   


Yoga-style stretching can benefit any athlete, but it is most valuable for preventing 

injuries in sports that require explosive activity, such as hockey, where a great deal of 

force is suddenly exerted by the muscles.  


Many of my young athletes, particularly the males, don’t see the benefits of doing yoga 

for enhancing performance and only stick to the strength and power training at the 

gym. What I explain to them is that not only does it teach flexibility, but it has a big 

emphasis on stability, strength and proper breathing technique. At the same time it 

lengthens muscle and connective tissue, which increases blood flow and helps with 

recovery and injury prevention, all of which are important in sport. 



I frequently use yoga stretches and poses to teach my athletes and clients transitioning 

from one movement to the next instead of the traditional isolation stretching.  In doing 

this they are learning kinetic linking when moving through these transitions, which will 

translate into faster more efficient movements on the ice. To stretch 

individual muscles is not always effective to help improve mobility/flexibility in the 

body. We don’t move in isolation, we move as a dynamic unit and restriction in the 

system can impair movement, thus hinder performance. 



                Common Yoga Pose                         Edmonton Oilers Hockey                 Manny Malhotra - One of the NHL Strongest & Fastest

                 The 'Natarajasana'                              Team Yoga Session                     players has been known to use yoga regularly.





Yoga also helps athletes get back on track after an injury. Physical therapists now 

routinely prescribe it for chronic back and muscular pain. Yoga allows you to change old 

injurious posture habits and teaches breathing and meditative techniques. You can learn 

to begin to feel each muscle, recognize the early sensations of pain and take action to 

reduce the stress on your body. 


By increasing mobility in the joints, which improves range of motion for overall 

enhanced performance, an athlete will be able to reach farther and fall harder while 

preventing and minimizing injuries because their muscles have a memory (like a rubber 

band) from the deep stretching obtained in practicing yoga on a regular basis. 


With yoga, an athlete will not only increase flexibility but also increase poise and 

balance from holding and balancing poses.  This type of balancing will enhance athletic 

performance by enabling the athlete to prevent falls because of their heightened 

awareness of their body’s center place. When balancing poses are mastered, an athlete 

is then conditioned to unconsciously recover from any imbalances their body may 

experience, staying centered in action, moment by moment during play. They are able 


to use their body in ways they never thought possible while remaining centered and 

injury free. 


Yoga also helps strengthen connective tissue, break down adhesions (tiny scar tissue) 

from old injuries and over-training, that tighten as we age thus helping create better 

mobility of the joints and an anti-aging posture



                                   Phil Jackson - Forced the LA Lakers into                             The 'Side Plank Pose'
                                   using yoga for a balanced training approach.                    Give Yoga a try for hockey today.
                                   They went on to win 3 NBA titles in a row.




My Story - Tom Swales


I first started doing yoga about a year ago when I was plagued by chronic Achilles 

tendonitis/tendonopathy and looking for alternative ways to treat my injury.  Both of 

my Achilles would become stiff and inflamed, and would be extremely painful in the 

morning or with running or sprinting activities. I used traditional physiotherapy 

modalities, shock wave therapy, acupuncture and an eccentric exercise protocol for 

Achilles tendonopathy. All would give temporary relief but would not fix the problem. I 

then suffered a severe ankle sprain that prevented me from doing any running or 

jumping activities for 6 weeks.


When I started running again my condition returned and I 

was getting frustrated. I came across a book called 7 minutes of magic by Lee Holden, 

which taught a short 7 minute yoga routine in the morning and one in the evening for 

improving overall mobility and proper breathing that coincide with the body’s natural 

rhythms. I always thought I had good flexibility but doing these yoga poses and 

breathing techniques, I realized I had some major mobility issues in my back and hips. 

After 2 weeks of consistent yoga I went back to running and found I had no pain in my 

Achilles with activity and the morning stiffness and my calves and tendons slowly 

subsided. It appeared that the problem wasn’t my Achilles tendons but a fascial 

restriction from my lower back that was pulling into my ankles and creating pain an 

inflammation in my lower legs.


This is a good example as to how we need to look at the 

body as a system and not as individual pieces. The body is a dynamic unit of function 

and we need to look after all systems and components to maintain balance and peak 





Concept of Movement Ltd., is a physical therapy, strength and conditioning company 

that is focused on orthopedic and sports related injuries, movement dysfunctions, 

youths, sports organizations, active individuals and families. For more information 

please visit www.conceptofmovement.com  

Twitter: @COMphysio




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