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Yoga Craze Hits Leafs

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Jay Rosehill admits it.

“I have a half-assed downward dog,” he said at practice, Tuesday.

The Leafs hardrock winger is talking about Yoga, which he describes as something akin to a hockey fight only longer and with much more pain.

Rosehill is one of a handful of Leafs who practiced the ancient art of stretching and relaxation during the off-season.  The downward facing dog, for those of you who have not been humbled by the mat, is a favourite, often agonizing position.

“I started doing it once a week in the summer and I admit I felt better,” Rosehill said. “I was enjoying it. I told myself I would do it through the year but I haven’t.  I think I’m that in between guy. I support it but I don’t do it.”

There are however, converts in the Leafs room.

The story started rolling when Joffrey Lupul said part of the rehabilitation for his troublesome back involved yoga. Lupul trains in California where finding a yoga place is easier than spotting a Starbucks.

“If you were to tell me four years ago I would be doing yoga and Pilates, I would have said you were crazy,” he said.

Back surgery and a corresponding, potentially fatal infection changed his attitude. pegs Lupul’s salary at $ 9.5 million for this season and next. That would put any right-thinking man into compression tights.

“My downward facing dog is a work in progress,” he said. “The whole thing is tough but anything I can do to get the most out of my body, I am going to do.”

A few seasons ago Tie Domi and Eric Lindros said they had begun the practice. It was difficult to snicker at one of the franchise’s all-time tough guys and a six-foot-four behemoth who is furrier than a Persian rug.

A straw poll around the Leafs room shows a 50 per cent yoga or Pilates rate.  Jonas Gustavsson doesn’t. “My girlfriend does,” he said cheerily. Jake Gardiner doesn’t. Neither does Clarke MacArthur who admits he can’t touch his toes with the same guilty tone he would use to disclose an addiction to cough syrup.

Matthew Lombardi uses Pilates and took one or two lessons a week in his Montreal area home until a concussion limited his activity over the last year.

“Yoga is friggin’ hard, man” said six-foot-four defenceman Cody Franson, who took up the practice with his workout group in Kelowna four years ago.

“I struggle to keep a pose for more than 15 seconds,” Franson said.

His favorite pose?

“The last one,” he said. “The one where you get to just lie there.”
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