Have you heard of the Prime Sport Pyramid yet? No worries, just continue reading! We are happy to feature the following – as we might say – really insightful guest article about the connection of emotions and hockey performance contributed by Katherine Palms. Since emotions “ultimately dictate how you perform throughout a competition“. Katherine has taught yoga for the Traverse City North Stars and Kalamazoo College Women’s Lacrosse. Find more about Katherine in her bio down below.
Hockey Yoga and the Prime Sport Pyramid
Yoga is very helpful for developing strength, creating flexibility, finding focus, and preventing injuries. Those are all wonderful reasons hockey players should incorporate it to their lifestyle. But there is another major reason a consistent yoga practice could give hockey players a leading edge over their opponents.
The main reason I would recommend yoga to any hockey player, or any athlete for that matter, is a consistent yoga practice provides an athlete with a relationship between their body, mind and breath that can lead them to make important decisions on and off the ice. Those important decisions usually stem from emotional responses.
Emotions sit at the top of the Prime Sport Pyramid
In Psychology Today’s article “Sports: The Power of Emotions” by Jim Taylor Ph.D. it states that at the top of the “Prime Sport Pyramid” (defined, as being able to perform at a consistently high level under the most challenging conditions) sits emotions. Listing that emotions are above motivation, confidence, intensity and focus, because emotions will “ultimately dictate how you perform throughout a competition.” Taylor explains that negative emotions can hurt performance physical and mentally. They can cause one to lose their prime intensity; can create muscle tension, breathing difficulties, a loss of coordination, and overall a loss of confidence.
Taylor states, “one of the most difficult aspects of emotions is that they become habits that can cause you to automatically respond with a certain emotional reaction to a particular circumstance.”
Getting back in the game through yoga
A consistent yoga practice will not take away negative emotions, but it will create a different habitual response, and instead of allowing those negative emotions to hurt performance, once a negative emotion arises a yogi would then be able to find their breath, and their focus, and get back in the game!
One of the biggest challenges an athlete can face is their own emotional response. During a yoga class a variety of emotions come to play from embarrassment to judgment, nervousness to confidence, and in an instant they can fluctuate. Through a consistent yoga practice, players can begin to modify their emotional reaction to a focus on their breath. They can see if they keep focusing on breathing their balance improves, their strength improves, their emotions regulate, and even their relaxation improves. After time, a person can realize a focus on breath, whether its through movement, stress, change, balance or relaxation, will encourage the body and mind to function most efficiently.
Breathing is key to control your emotions
When I coached Women’s Lacrosse at Kalamazoo College, we would start the game with breathing exercises from the yoga classes I taught. We would start out “breathe in fear, breathe out strength” then by breathing out the strength “breathe in confidence, breathe out intensity.” We would switch up our words, and I would have a different teammate lead the breathing before the game. It became something the student-athletes took with them as the season winded down. This is another way a breath centered yoga class can help athletes change their emotional response. They can start to feel one way, maybe anxious, nervous, worried and instead find their breath and begin to tell their body how they want to feel… confident, unstoppable, a champion!
“In fact, one reason why the best athletes in the world are at the top is because they have the ability to control their emotions rather than their emotions controlling them.” Jim Taylor PhD (creator of the Prime Sport Pyramid)
Katherine currently serves as Grantmaking Associate at the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation in Traverse City, Michigan. While working there she is also teaching a Summer Yoga Series for the Leelanau Conservancy in Leland Michigan. Katherine obtained her 200hrs in Vinyasa and Restorative Yoga through Awakened Life School of Yoga (ALSY) in 2013. After teaching for 6 months, Katherine then went to Chennai, India for a 10-day immersion training in Hatha Yoga and Indian Traditions in 2014. Then following that training, Katherine went back to assist at the ALSY Program in 2014. She has continued to pursue education in other trainings, like Yoga for 12 Step Recovery (Y12SR), Pranayama, Holy Yoga and further self-study.
Katherine loves having an emphasis on yoga for athletes. When she coached Women’s Lacrosse at Kalamazoo College in their 2014-2015 season, she enjoyed teaching the women breathing exercises, and stretches, along with leading them in yoga classes. Katherine also taught breathing, stretching and yoga to her Bandits, summer travel teams consisting of high school and middle school girls. During their 2016-2017 season, Katherine served as the Yoga instructor for the TC North Stars at Center Ice Arena. As a hockey fan, it excited her to be working with the junior league and she has hopes to work with more hockey teams in the future.