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Yoga and pilates for Goalies

The feature article for this week’s InGoal Magazine News was about Yoga and Pilates being used by NHL goaltenders. Subscribers got the first look at in on Monday – if you want all the best content as soon as it is released – including subscriber exclusives like “ask a pro” head over to the sidebar and become a subscriber – it’s free and we’ll never share your information with anyone – promise!

This article was written by Maria Mountain of Revolution Conditioning.

Although I am not an expert in either practice, as a strength and conditioning coach I often get asked about one or the other. So I will give you a brief review of the differences in my opinion and then break it down to help you decide if your performance in net will benefit from either system.

Let’s start with the similarities. Both Yoga and Pilates are exercise systems with specific techniques, movements and progressions. Both have different schools of thought with Yoga having more legitimate variations. In my experience some Pilates purists view anything beyond the original method developed by Joseph Pilates as not true Pilates. The goal of both exercise systems is to improve overall wellness.

I have no idea who invented Yoga, but I do know that it is an ancient practice originating from India. It dates back thousands of years – it was not discovered by Hollywood! Pilates is less than a century old and was created by German circus performer and boxer Joseph Pilates.

Goal of Yoga

As I understand it, the overall goal of yoga is as related to (or more so) spiritual wellness than it is physical and the different paths of yoga reflect this. There are paths which focus on good health (Hatha Yoga), those intended to steady your mind (Raja Yoga), one to relax your mind and inspire you (Sankirtan) and so on. My point is this: there is no yoga with the purpose of giving goalies a wider butterfly flare – that is just a nice by-product.

Goal of Pilates

Pilates also has some meditative/centering principles, as Joseph Pilates was reported to have studied yoga and meditation, but it is a little more focused on strength and control. An attempt to restore neutral posture through awareness, movement retraining and breathing is the outcome of Pilates training. Dancers will often refer to Pilates as giving them long lean muscles – really I think this relates to the fantastic postural retraining. Here is an experiment: sit up as tall as you can. Do you feel like your muscles are longer? Yep!

If you enjoy Maria’s articles, check out The Ultimate Goalie Training Program

Differences between Yoga and Pilates

Yoga utilizes minimal equipment such as a yoga mat, strap, small block or towel roll to help the participant utilize proper form. Pilates does include mat classes, but also incorporates larger pieces of equipment such as the reformer.
Yoga will develop muscular endurance and even strength in some of its different postures, but I really value it for the stretching and flexibility training it provides. Pilates will help you improve your mobility, but I really value the core strengthening it provides.

The Bottom Line

So here is the bottom line based on my experiences. The most important thing is to select the one that you enjoy the most. Beyond that, if you really want to work on flexibility try Yoga first. If you really want to work core strength, try Pilates first.

A pleasant and productive experience with either Yoga or Pilates will depend to a very large extend on the quality of the instructor. If you choose to use either system to supplement your current off-ice training I suggest you seek out a specific Yoga or Pilates studio that specializes in those forms of exercise. In some cases the more traditional fitness clubs will not have instructors with quality certifications. A great instructor will move through the group, cuing individuals to ensure that they are performing each exercise with proper technique. They will also be able to modify movements to suit the ability of each participant.

If you have any current or past injuries, make sure you discuss these issues with your instructor before participating in any classes.

The owner of Revolution Conditioning, Maria Mountain, MSc has trained World Champions, Olympic Medalists, Stanley Cup Champions, young aspiring athletes and regular ‘Joe’s’ for over 15-years. You can pick up some more free off-ice training techniques for goalies at

photo credit: Ron Sombilon Gallery

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  1. Kara

    Hi Maria. I really liked this article. It’s great to see that goalies and their trainers are finding Pilates beneficial. As a Pilates studio owner here in NYC, I’d be remiss if I didn’t clarify: Joseph Pilates was more than some “circus performer.” Through studying anatomy, yoga and Greek & Roman regimens, he transformed himself from frail child to teenage anatomy model. He went on train populations as diverse as the Hamburg Police to George Ballanchine’s injured dancers. While this method is only about a century, that is far time-tested than many other methods of exercises used today.

  2. Michelle Cormack

    As a Yoga and Pilates instructor plus a goalie mom it is nice to see more information out there on this subject. I would like to point out that Pilates reformer is not the only way to participate in Pilates classes. I would also like to say that buying a video or watching Yoga or Pilates online should not take the place of an instructor. I have had to many students come in saying they “do Yoga” all the time at home, but they do not get anything out of it or it is uncomfortable. Some enjoy it but do not see any results. Then get into warrior 2 in class and their form is off. There is really no substitute for taking the class then working at home with the instruction given in class.
    I have been teaching for years in gyms and starting to venture out into goalies. My son is a goalie and I can see the flexibility balance and strength he needs. You are correct those are not usual bi-products of standard exercise programs.