You may have seen them popping up in strip malls or maybe even in your neighbourhood: yoga studios. Yup, yoga seems to be here to stay, especially since it’s still gaining popularity. In fact, Bikram (hot yoga) is becoming more and more popular to discuss around the water coolers at work; even in the group cycle classes I teach people ask me about hot yoga and whether or not I would recommend it. That’s why I was a little surprised when listening to the Jason Gregor show last week when he interviewed Sam Gagner.
Gagner mentioned that they skate 5 days a week, do weight training 3 times a week, and twice a week they do some hot yoga. At this point in the interview both Brownlee and Gregor seemed really intrigued. I tried to determine if it was due to Gagner's age, experience level, or relatively healthy career that made Gagner's comments so interesting. In the end, I figured it was because they wondered if this is becoming a more common training technique. If you want, you can listen to the podcast from Gregor's show (Gagner's interview is in hour 2, starting roughly a half hour in).
Stretching is something that becomes more and more important as people get older. By using proper stretching, you can increase your range of motion, and circulation, and by increasing your circulation, you can potentially increase your energy levels. So stretching has major benefits for everyone regardless of your fitness levels or concerns, at least when it's done properly. Yoga involves strengthening, stretching, and breathing exercises, so you likely see where I am going with regard to hockey players.
Hockey players place a lot of stress on their leg muscles through weight training and their time on the ice, and with all of this training comes an increased chance of injury. As unlikely as it sounds, most professional athletes don't want to spend their season on the injured list, and many are looking for methods and techniques to reduce their chances of injury and prolong their careers.
What exactly does hot yoga mean? You sweat. A lot. The room ranges from 32-45 degrees Celsius, so if you decide to give this a go, you need to expect that there is a possibility you will not be able to complete your first class. Secondly, you need to know that you cannot leave the room and come back in. It will be stinky, it will be hot, it will be humid - most rooms are set up to be in excess of 40% humidity. The class itself is based on the principles of Bikram Choudhurym and is usually 90 minutes long, consisting of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. Through Bikram, or hot yoga, you are supposed to be able to increase your oxygen consumption and better oxygenate your muscles. The other benefits of yoga are strengthening your core, and strengthening and lengthening your muscles overall. Make no mistake, yoga is a resistance exercise also.
So who's doing yoga? We are hearing more and more athletes talk about the benefits they have experienced by adding yoga to their training regime. Edmonton's very own George Laraque (he still calls Edmonton home, so he is ours) and Shawn Horcoff were very public about their yoga practice in 2008. The Tulsa Oilers are also taking part in hot yoga; Boston's Tim Thomas also does yoga; and wouldn't you know it, but some quick searches show that the Ottawa Senators have been using yoga since at least 2006.
Now, don't be surprised the next time you hear an athlete, or even a friend or colleague tell you how yoga has changed their game or benefited their life. If this is something you would like to try for yourself, try to find a location that is easy for you to get to and relatively close to home. You are more likely to keep it up if its closer to home or work. If you are really new to this, try to find a location that will allow you to try out a few classes before signing up, or one that will allow you to pay for each class individually. Otherwise, maybe you're lucky and your fitness centre already has some free drop-in classes. Make sure that your instructor has their certifications. Most places will display their certifications, or else they announce at the beginning of the class their certifications. Either way, be safe and ask for help if you need it; it's more embarrassing to get injured from a yoga class than it is to ask for clarification, right?