ST. PAUL, Minn. -- You may not associate yoga with hockey players, but folks at the University of St. Thomas do, and with good reason.
The University of St. Thomas(UST)hockey team pushes hard and fast on the ice.
But what if you could slow it all down and take the intense hockey training regimen from the rink to the mat?
Believe it or not, those warriors you see at the arena can also do the warrior pose. Every Tuesday, team members engage their bodies and minds in an hour long yoga class.
It all started with assistant coach Parker Burgess who tried yoga and realized the potential benefits.
"We were a little hesitant at first because yoga is so different and it's not really your prototypical male athlete exercise," says Burgess. "Training for hockey is so dynamic and there are so many different aspects of it. Me and the other assistant coach have done a lot of yoga ourselves and we realized there were a lot of benefits to it, whether it's breathing or flexibility to prevent injury, the guys' balance as well."
It's an ancient practice with a modern twist. The goal with the hockey players is to prevent athletic injuries caused by overuse and tight muscles. Hockey players are prone to pulled groins. Head coach Jeff Boeser notices yoga has made a difference.
"Last year before the season even started we had two pulled groins and we've been doing this since school started and we have none up to this point," says Boeser.
At UST, the hockey team is the only one regularly weaving yoga into training. After just a few weeks, players already report increased flexibility and core strength, stress relief, better breathing and concentration - all good for their game.
"We stretch in the locker room and we stretch on the ice after practice, but you don't really get that sense of the mindfulness of it as well as the deep stretch for an hour," says center and left wing Spencer Brendel.
"Kind of both worlds where you are pushing yourself physically but at the same time staying very relaxed," says defensive player Robbie Vannelli.
The University of St. Thomas hockey team started doing yoga in September. So far they are 1-1-1 in the season and hoping they'll only get better from here.