Jarett Stoll has won two Stanley Cup Championships with the Los Angeles Kings in the past three seasons. Standing 6'1", weighing 213 lbs., the Saskatchewan native has been a key contributor to the Kings' success. The 2014 season was known as the "Season of Comebacks" - with many games demanding mental and physical perseverance. Stoll, a twelve-year veteran, knew precisely how to answer these demands. In the play-offs, the Kings played twenty-six games - a record for any team winning the Stanley Cup.
Yoga may seem to be the last thing a hockey player would practice. But the key elements of hockey - grace, strength, focus and finesse - are all activated in a yoga-asana session. For Stoll, yoga is an integral part to his training program. During the final weeks of his off-season, Stoll took some time to discuss how yoga has affected his game with _PRACTICE.
I started doing yoga about three years ago. It felt really good in my body after every class. I was energized. My muscles were lengthening. It’s important to lengthen your muscles as well as strengthen them. Yoga does both.
The training in hockey has changed a bit in the last eight to ten years. It’s become more about preventing injuries. With yoga allowing you more flexibility and lengthening your muscles, you can really see how your body can recover better with this practice.
Yoga has definitely helped me to learn how to breathe through motions and movements. It’s amazing how many times we hold our breath - when we get tense - and it’s not helping anything. I still have a long way to go to breathe more.
Calming your body down quicker and calming down your breath is the easiest way to get focused. I don’t think you can focus as much as you need to on this – especially in sports.
Calming down the mind and not having it run a million miles an hour? That’s the task.
That’s the type of yoga I like – a flow. If you’re doing yoga – like I do, five days a week in mid-training – it’s good to have one day where you have a class that’s a little slower. But I like to move more quickly and steadily. During a class, instead of one chatturunga, I like to do five or seven – just to get more out of it. That’s how I like to practice.
As athletes, we want to always move quickly but you also have to train some parts of the body and the mind with a kind of focus.
You’d be surprised how much strength you can get from doing yoga regularly. When I first started doing yoga, I was amazed how I felt while I was lifting, how much more I could lift because my muscles were relaxed.
You can always get better. Nobody is perfect. Even the great ones – Gretzy, Wilt, Kareem – always wanted to improve.
You got to improve. You got to keep improving. You can never be satisfied. You can always work on more parts of your game and your body. That’s the athlete mindset.
You can always get more out of yourself and push yourself more. When you’re so-called "practicing," you can push your body pretty hard.
It’s incredible this past play-off run, just how far we could push ourselves, how far we could push our bodies.
When it gets tough, you just have to push yourself.