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Field hockey and yoga, a good combination?

Field hockey and yoga, a good combination?

Sports physiotherapist

The practice of yoga has been gaining in popularity in North America since the turn of the century. In 2005, over 1.4 million people in Canada practised yoga, an increase of 45.4% compared to 2003(1). More recent data from the USA show that in 2012, 20.4 million Americans practised yoga, an increase of 29% since 2008(2). This growing craze can even be felt among athletes. In fact, this type of training is more frequently incorporated into the physical and mental preparation of field hockey players. Is yoga as beneficial for field hockey players as it’s made out to be?

Physical benefits
It appears that the practice of yoga has fitness benefits in a healthy population. Overall, improvements were noted in deadlift strength, mobility of the lumbar region, neck, hips, shoulders and knees (8,12), and balance(17). It would appear that increased forearm strength is common and, above all, depends on the different poses adopted. A greater proportion of hand-loaded poses would result in increased grip strength (5,6,12). In addition, a literature review published in 2013 by Abel &al. has observed an improvement in overall respiratory function following yoga practice in a healthy population(3, 11).

For field hockey players
Field hockey players are usually in better physical condition than the general population, so care must be taken when interpreting the above results. Strength gains are likely to be less than previously observed, and the impact on musculature is likely to be felt more in type 1 fibers(3). These slow contraction fibers are used predominantly during endurance efforts. In fact, a field hockey player’s performance will depend much more on the work of fast-acting muscle fibres, which will be specifically trained to optimize performance.

The majority of field hockey players are likely to benefit more from the gain in balance and flexibility than from the gain in strength. In terms of respiratory system adaptations, there is less room for improvement than in the general population. Moreover, it would appear that improvements are greater in subjects with a lower level of prior physical fitness, and are dependent on the frequency and duration of sessions (11). Since the breathing exercises practised are of a different nature to the content of conventional exercise programs, it’s safe to assume that it’s possible to bring about positive changes in field hockey players. However, we must be aware that these improvements are likely to be very modest if they are present at all.

Psychological benefits
The word yoga means “union”. The practice of yoga aims to unite the physical, psychological and spiritual spheres. This is why the benefits of yoga go beyond physical health (3,14): the psychological benefits of yoga are said to help reduce anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia and improve mood (8,14). Increased melatonin secretion, reduced cortisol production and activation of the parasympathetic system could be mechanisms explaining these benefits (3, 15). The state of mind during practice, and the focus on breathing, also contribute to this feeling of well-being. Simply adding a session in times of high stress can help you cope with more difficult periods.

Risk of injury
Be aware that yoga is not without risk. To keep the whole thing safe, we suggest that you take the various poses gradually and in relative comfort. Although not eliminated, the risk of injury is very low when sessions are supervised by certified trainers (3). Adopting poor posture or positions beyond one’s capabilities increases the risk of injury. It would appear that the knee is a high-risk joint, especially in the presence of hip weakness or lack of mobility(18). Individuals with particular conditions or pre-existing injuries should be cautious and adapt sessions according to their limitations.

How often?
How often should I do yoga? It’s difficult to determine the right duration, frequency, intensity and style of yoga, as there are many factors to consider. The time of year, individual characteristics, available resources and schedule are just a few examples. The summer period can be a good time to increase the number of sessions in the general physical preparation phase. Moreover, when incorporated into the physical preparation of speed skaters outside competition periods, the practice of yoga appears to be beneficial. Indeed, improved posture was observed in addition to an increase in overall training load without increasing the risk of injury (16). It may therefore be worthwhile doing one to three yoga sessions a week during the off-season.

In the run-up to camps or major competitions, physical preparation will focus more on sport-specific training. However, when these more stressful moments arrive, the practice of yoga can be psychologically beneficial. That’s why it can be interesting to do a short daily routine and/or two to four yoga sessions a month during these periods.

In short, without being a sport-specific training program, yoga can be an integral part of a field hockey player’s physical and mental preparation. Flexibility, balance and posture are likely to benefit the most. A low volume of this type of training will not bring the physical benefits claimed. Moreover, these positive effects are not exclusive to the practice of yoga and could be achieved with alternative forms of training. On the other hand, if only to take the time to stop and diversify a field hockey player’s often over-specialized baggage, yoga can be a good complement to training.

Written by
Maxime Provencher

Physiotherapist at Université Laval’s due Peps clinic

Medical Yogatherapy training by Diana Perez and Lucie Vachon

Photo credit lancuks

Yoga inspirations:

Aneta – Instagram

Carmen Anna Hanggi – Instagram

Kristina Erikson – Instagram

Lana Ozturka – Instagram

Here are a few places in your area where you can practice yoga:


Namasté Yoga Studio  Website


Infinity Yoga

Quebec City area:

Namaste Yoga Limoilou  Website

ÔmYoga Website


Namaste Yoga Lévis/ St-Nicolas  Website


Sup Yoga Estrie

Oakville Ontario:

Vibe Yoga Studio – Instagram


Alexandra Yoga  Website

Montreal area:

Studio Yoga Nat  Website


SKY – Sup – Kite – Yoga  Website – Instagram


Olab Yoga  Website

Studio Enjoyoga  Website

Studio Boomerang website


Studio Bhuta Yoga  Website


Solia Yoga  Website

Yoga3    Website

Val d’or:

Jala Yoga


Yoga Sésâme  Website

References :
1.NAMASTA North American Studio Alliance. Canadian statistics.Retrieved March 19, 2014, from
2. NAMASTA North American Studio Alliance. US yoga statistics. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from
3. Ramajayam Govindaraj & al. Yoga and physical exercise – a review and comparison International Review Of Psychiatry Vol. 28 , Iss. 3,2016
4. Raju, PS, & al. Effect of yoga on exercise tolerance in normal healthy volunteers. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 30: 121-132, 1986.
5. Dash, M. & Telles, S. Improvement in hand grip strength in normal volunteers and rheumatoid arthritis patients following yoga training. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 45: 355-360, 2001.
6. Mandanmohan & al. Effect of yoga training on handgrip, respiratory pressures and pulmonary
function. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 47: 387-392, 2003.
7. Tran, MD. & al. Effects of Hatha yoga practice on the health-related aspects of physical fitness. Prev Cardiol 4: 165-170, 2001.
8. Ray, US. & al. Effect of yogic exercises on physical and mental health of young fellowship
race trainees. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 45: 37-53, 2001.
9. Tekur, P. & al. Effect of short-term intensive yoga program on pain, functional disability and spinal flexibility in chronic low back pain: A randomised control study. J Altern Complement Med 14: 637-644, 2008.
10. Ray, US. & al. Aerobic capacity and perceived exertion after practice of Hatha yogic exercises. Indian J Med Res 114: 215-221, 2001.
11. Allison N. & al. The Effects of Regular Yoga Practice on Pulmonary Function in Healthy Individuals: A Literature Review J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Mar;19(3):185-90.
12. Tracy B.L. & Hart C. E. Bikram yoga training and physical fitness in healthy young adults. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):822-30
13. Jeter, P.E. & al. A Systematic Review of Yoga for Balance in a Healthy Population. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Apr 1; 20(4): 221-232
14. Hadi, N. & Hadi, N. Effects of hatha yoga on well-being in healthy adults in shiraz, Islamic republic of Iran. East Mediterr Health J. 2007 Jul-Aug;13(4):829-37
15. Harinath, K. & al. Effects of Hatha Yoga and Omkar Meditation onCardiorespiratory Performance, Psychologic Profile, and Melatonin Secretion J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Apr;10(2):261-8
16. Brunelle, J.F. & al. Influences of a yoga intervention on the postural skills of the Italian short track speed skating team Open Access J Sports Med. 2015 Feb 12;6:23-35
17. Subramaniam, S. & Bhatt, T. Effect of Yoga practice on reducing cognitive-motor interference for improving dynamic balance control in healthy adults. Complementary therapies in Medicine. Feb. 2017, Vol. 30, p 30-35
18. Russell, K. & al. Epidemiology of yoga-related injuries in Canada from 1991 to 2010: a case series study, International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion,2016. 23:3, 284-290

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