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Camels, Cow Faces and the Half Lord of Fish

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
With niggling preseason injuries decimating the Canucks bench – at least the half the veterans use – the club has turned to a new training regime.

Not yoghurt – though it’s healthy too – but yoga, the 3,000 year-old exercise technique that promotes physical and spiritual well-being.

Does that mean the Canucks will ice a band of Lululemon-wearing pacifists for the home opener? Not likely.

“We tried it, but most of the stuff we couldn’t figure out,” said Mattias Ohlund, seemingly one of the only veterans who’s not nursing some kind of strain or another.

Head coach Alain Vigneault has lost nine skaters to various muscle ailments since the intra-squad game Sunday, including Trevor Linden and Brendan Morrison. The coach can add two more to the training room wait list as both Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa awoke to muscle tweaks Friday morning.

“We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that these athletes are healthy and can perform on the ice,” said Vigneault. “Yoga is something that is very good and something that we’re putting in our program this year. Hopefully it’ll help us down the line.”

Yoga is hardly groundbreaking, though it's still rare to see a group of 20 professional hockey players stretching their way through poses like The Camel, The Cow Face and The Half Lord of the Fishes.

It's no different than the Soviets back in the 70's who were discovered to be closet figure skaters. The collective hockey world scoffed. By the early 80’s, Don Cherry ran the only summer hockey school without a figure skating coach on the payroll.

If the Canucks can avoid any further groin pulls and abdominal strains, yogis could be wearing Reebok track suits and pacing the puddled hallways of NHL rinks by 2009. And what better place to start than Vancouver where Yoga studios are outnumbered only by sushi bars and espresso carts?

“We used the yoga in the summer for our conditioning camp...the guys got along well,” said Strength and Conditioning Coach, Roger Takahashi. “We use it for rest, relaxation, stretching, core-work, balance, coordination, and recharging our systems.”

“I think it’s going to get the guys to be in a better balance position, work their core a little more, aid their flexibility, and also to teach the guys breathing techniques to relax their body.”

Yoga likely wouldn’t have averted Aaron Miller’s abdominal surgery, and certainly wouldn’t have done much to prevent Sami Salo’s wrist fracture, but there’s a chance it could cut recovery time for players like Willie Mitchell who missed more than 20 games with groin problems last year.

“I think it’s a good idea, it’s something different, and probably a good work out,” said Daniel Sedin. “I think it’s good to find something different because guys get tired of always doing the same thing, so it’s a good idea.”

“I think that it takes a lot of focus to be able to do it properly,” said Matt Cooke. “And if you can utilize some of that energy of focus toward your game, I think that it has a positive impact.”

“For guys that haven’t had a problem, I think that it’ll help ward off the chronic growing pains that happen throughout the year.”

The Canucks’ only hit the mat for the first time Friday morning, so it’s a bit early to say whether yoga will pay dividends just yet, though it’s already making in-roads around the office.

“I'm thinking of trying it,” chuckled Vigneault, patting his stomach. “I hear it’s very good. And I have the type of body for yoga.”

Now, if only it could help with a right-handed shot on the power play.
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