Ryan O'Reilly doesn't play hockey with an edge. He's a finesse player, and his penalties are of the accidental variety. But deep down, the Avalanche forward believes he has an edge over most opponents. He believes in namaste, yoga's most popular spoken word that, translated roughly, means "the spirit within me salutes the spirit in you." "I love it. It's everything to me," O'Reilly said. Hockey practice offers O'Reilly the opportunity to hone his on-ice skills, but his yoga practice has helped guide him in life and the NHL. The 22-year-old is a devout believer in the ancient Indian physical, mental and spiritual disciplines. On Monday the majority of the Avs practiced yoga together for the first time in team history under the guidance of an instructor brought in by the team's physical therapist. "It's by far the toughest training, and best training, I do," O'Reilly said. "I could go on and on about what it's done for me, but if you look at injury-wise, preventing injuries, it's a huge thing." O'Reilly, who tries to practice yoga at least twice a week, about 75 minutes at a time, has missed only 10 NHL games since signing with the Avs in 2009 at age 18. He was introduced to yoga by his father, Brian O'Reilly, a Canadian sports performance coach, at age 15. Ryan practices most yoga styles, including the sauna-like Bikram, which features 26 postures in a heated climate meant to replicate yoga's birthplace in India. "In yoga, it's not like you're lifting weights and just building muscle mass. You're working all the fibers, all the tissue. A lot of times guys get hurt (playing hockey) because they're extended and don't have that strength and flexibility," O'Reilly said. "Yoga is the teacher of strength and flexibility, and it activates everything." Including the mind and breathing, yoga's most important element. "Controlling your breath is a huge benefit for me," O'Reilly said. "When you do yoga classes, you're so present in every little detail inside your body. And when I play hockey, I try to do the same thing — especially after a bad shift. I try to come back to my breath, inhale and exhale, and that brings you back into the moment. I'm like, 'OK, I'm recovered. What am I going to do now?' " Dayna Douros doubles as O'Reilly's girlfriend and yoga partner. A future yoga instructor, she is four weeks shy of obtaining her teacher's certificate at Samahdi Center for Yoga in Denver, a studio where she and O'Reilly often practice. The couple met while in high school in Scarborough, Ontario, at a time when both were introduced to yoga. "My whole life revolves around it, and we both bring it everywhere we go," said Douros, 23. "Ryan brings it into his hockey, but it translates into our everyday life. He's always pretty calm and under control, and I'd say I'm very similar."
Ryan O'Reilly introduces his teammates to yoga
Denver Post | Nov 6