Pro Prep’s very own Jodian Self is the only Pro Certified Joga Coach in all of Canada. She’s worked with teams and athletes of all levels, including the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
Joga is a three-dimensional movement system that bridges the gap between the science of yoga breathing, relaxation and mobility and the biomechanics of sport. The program was designed for the body and mind of an athlete, and focuses on positions, breathing and relaxation. It’s beneficial for injury prevention, high performance and recovery, and also includes a combination of dynamic and static stretching — the core philosophy being to create a sound structural foundation.
One of the most important aspects of Joga is breath work. Along with core, it encompasses “segment one.” Breath work is valuable for an athlete not only during Joga, but also in a game setting.
“If I was in front of football players, where can I use breath work? Pre-game. I get distracted, I get nervous, some people vomit. Why? It’s because you’re chest breathers. Get that breath a little bit lower,” noted Self, who’s also a Certified Yoga Body Breath Work Coach and Certified FRCms (mobility specialist).
“In a game situation, how do you use that breath? You use that breath to calm yourself down so you can focus better. The more oxygen that your brain has, the better you can focus, the better clarity you can have, the better decisions you make, and the less penalties you cause, because you’re not going offside.”
“The last piece is post-game. How do you turn your brain off? Do you perseverate about stuff? Do you over-analyze a shitty play? Do you stay awake at night? If you’re travelling, how do you get yourself into sleep mode so your body can recover the best it can? If you wake up and you’re a chest breather, you’ve probably spent the whole night being a chest breather. We need to re-train our bodies – athletes and every day humans – how to actually breathe.”
Segment one is what Self calls “the bread and butter.”
“That’s what I’ll take most of the athletes through,” she says.
“We would start with breath work, because we’re trying to balance out two nervous systems. We want to get you out of fight and flight, turn the volume down on chest breath and turn the volume up on that diaphragmatic breath, which is your performance breath. If we can balance out those two, then all of those systems turn back on, like your digestive system, your endocrine system. Everything turns back on.”
Segment one also allows Self to see if athletes have any dysfunctional movement or asymmetries, and if they’re able to use their core to stabilize themselves. From there, stability and mobility are the keys.
Breaking down segments two, three and four
Segments two and three involve external and internal rotation with the shoulders and hips. For a lot of athletes, these movements occur anywhere between sessions seven to ten.
“I don’t want to progress someone if they don’t understand how to stabilize their body,” says Self.
“It’s all these rotations, so it’s balance. Baseball players, hockey players, those ones you have to think okay, I have to shift my weight and I have to open up and stay balanced. That’s part of the strength piece. Are you stable and strong in the movement pattern?”
Segment four has more stretching and benchmarks included, and emphasizes the progression of tiny movements from week to week.
“It becomes these tiny little incremental bits where people go oh, I can finally lift my knees off the floor,” Self noted. “It’s a top to bottom full-body stretch.”
Countless teams have seen the value in Self’s work, and have incorporated it into their every-day training, such as the Winnipeg Rifles. Instead of doing run-down days, they incorporate film and yoga.
Manitoba Bisons receiver, and Pro Prep athlete Braeden Smith appreciates the impact Joga has had on his mobility.
“It’s about symmetry on both sides,” he says.
“When you play a bunch of high school sports, you don’t get the chance to do a lot of strength training and you develop a lot of imbalances on your body. It’s been nice to do stuff like that. Start doing Joga. Your body will thank you for it down the road.”