Saturday, December 13, 2008

Roberto Luongo's Adductors

I think it fairly safe to say, after last's evening's sports news, that right now the world's best known groin muscles belong to the number one goalie for the Vancouver Canucks, Roberto Luongo. Not everyone in the world cares about hockey, of course, but the game has millions of fans in all those areas where it is possible to build and freeze a pond, rectangular or otherwise, and in this age of instant communication the hockey community probably has its mind more on Roberto's predicament than on any other issue.
The reasons don't require a rocket scientist to make them apparent. Until Roberto went down from that apparently innocent little movement of his left leg - I think it was in Pittsburgh - the team he was, somewhat surprisingly, appointed captain of this year - the outfit I used to bite my nails over in the 50's - was definitely emerging as a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup, and Roberto was on every one's mind as goaltender choice for the 2010 Olympics. The Canucks had got off to an indifferent start, but then, as Global TV's Squire Barnes pointed out as things got rolling, Luongo never really gets into his deepest magic until November. That's when it becomes apparent that the Canuck backstop really is part cat. Or is it mongoose? One of my favourite Kipling stories when I was a lad was Riki Tiki Tavi, about the mongoose that nailed the cobra threatening the children in an Indian bungalo.
It was at that point most people probably remembered that Roberto had gone down from a lesser groin pull back in the exhibition season, as I recall it. Most people that is, who were not trainers or yogis, or myself. The trainers, at the first incident, automatically started thinking about a treatment that would not only put a player back on the ice, but would, especially in the case of someone so uniquely valuable as this paticular goal tender, prevent it from happening again. Yogis wondered if Roberto did yoga, and if he did not, what kind of reception would they receive if they called up Canucks management.
I'm not sure it would be prudent to call myself a yogi, because I am not now, and probably never will be, an expert on all the hatha yoga positions, or asanas as they are called in Sanskrit, and certainly have never needed them or used them in order to attain a more spiritual connection with God. Having lived within the Christian influence all my life, I have grown up experiencing that all the most desirable spiritual habits are in fact given, and are not things to be striven for through any special physical routines. But I am also just as certain, that as God is the Lord of the body as well as the soul, it was His will that I should take up the study of yoga to some degree, and later, other physiological disciplines, in order to see how through the various cultures of this many faced world of ours He has inspired men and women - and children in their own unique way - to look after their own health, and in certain cases, to teach others how to do so.
Thus, when I saw Luongo taken off the ice the first time, I immediately wondered if it were time to talk about yoga and western athletics. This is certainly not a brand new idea in many areas, but there is always the question of how thorough the yoga on the part of the teachers, and how thorough the understanding and application on the part of the student. One sees jogging clubs with quite wretched body language, due to the lack of nasal breathing and sufficient integration of walking with running, and one has to be wary of any western athletics, professional or amateur, where this is no real awareness of yoga as the fundamental route to physical self-analysis.
Luongo is, obviously, a profoundly graceful goalie, as lithe between the pipes as Gretzky was all over the ice. He makes you wonder if his mother were a dancer, and taught him the splits, and I imagine that there is a lot more wisdom about the pelvic tilt around hockey rinks than there used to be. I might be talking completely through my hat, and Roberto might have been in such perfect condition that his injury can only be put down to the sort of fluke that can happen to anybody. I recall that the most painful session I ever had with my upper back, rarely a location for injury, came from reaching for a slice of toast as it popped up from the toaster. Later in the day I hosted scheduled guests lying on my back on the living room floor and probably had two days off work.
But I also keep thinking about the child's pose, especially with the variation whereby you spread your knees wide enough to feel a nice little stress on the adductors, let your torso fall between your upper legs, and let your mind ramble happily for many, many, minutes. For my money, this is the second great position after the two prone poses, which are basically for the sake of breathing and relaxation, and possibly the most important asana an athlete can know. It not only stretches everything, it tells you pretty well infallibly just how all the tight spots are doing.
It's also great for praying - how much more can the knees bend? - as Moslems have known all along.
When I first discovered it long ago, it was a great gift for my vocal performances, singing or acting. It perfected what I knew about putting my back into things. But I actually let it go until recent months, until I finally realized that it was pretty much the missing link not only for the twinges in my joints brought on by insufficient stretching after running and even walking, but also for the finishing touches to rebuilding the voice that appears to be inching its way back to public notice.
As far as I'm concerned, it's the best thing to do before you get up, the best way to start the day, especially if you're a hockey goal tender.

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