Early ski season yoga: Eight poses to prep for the slopes
December 12, 2017
You've tuned and waxed your skis. You've adjusted your bindings and renewed your pass(es). You're regularly praying for snow. All that's left now is to get your body in shape.
The dynamics of alpine skiing depend on strength and flexibility in your hips, thighs and lower legs, as well as stability from your core.
It's your core muscles that help you maintain balance and reduce dependence on leg muscles, making you more efficient and postponing muscle fatigue. Your lower leg muscles are responsible for pressure when edging while you're thigh muscles (both hamstrings and quads), bend your knees, control pressure and absorb ground impact forces. Your hip muscles act as stabilizers and assist with flexion, extension and rotation at the hip joint.
The following eight yoga postures are meant to enhance the muscle tone and flexibility of almost every muscle required for skiing. Try them a few times a week to feel the difference.
Build strength in your ankles, lower legs, thighs, hips and core with the following four postures:
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The regular knee flexion of alpine skiing requires powerful legs and hips. The chair pose will enhance the strength of your quads, glutes and core:
Stand with feet at hip width and arms next to your ears. Bend your knees and lower your hips to sit into an imaginary chair. Move hips down and back until knees are over or just behind your toes. Fire your thighs and glutes and lift your chest. Pull your low belly in and sit deeper into the pose. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on opposite side
Warrior 3 develops balance, leg strength and deep core engagement. If you let your core relax in this posture, your chest will drop lower than your hips and you'll feel wobbly.
From Chair Pose:
With both knees bent, lift left heel to left buttock. Straighten both legs, pushing left heel toward the wall behind you. Flex your left foot and engage through the deep core to stabilize your torso. Drop your left hip down to be in line with the right. Hold for five breaths. Switch sides.
Crescent Lunge tones legs and core. In addition, this pose improves coordination by requiring you to center your weight while your back heel is lifted off the floor:
Stand with feet at hip-width apart. Take a big step back with your right foot, keeping your right heel lifted over the ball of your right foot. Bend your front knee until it is directly over your ankle. Bring your arms overhead with palms facing each other. Gently encourage your right hip forward and draw your lower belly up. Find a focal point for balance. Hold for 10 breaths. Switch sides.
Alpine skiing requires core stability — the type of stabilitythat depends upon muscles deep in your torso. Forearm plank targets those muscles to increase balance on and off the mountain. It's easy to hold your breath or simply forget to breathe in this posture, so remind yourself to breathe deeply through your nose during the entire duration of the posture:
Kneel on the floor. Place your forearms on the floor in front of you, parallel to each other with palms facing down. Ensure that your elbows are directly under your shoulders and palms are directly in front of your elbows. Step your feet back one at a time until your knees are straight and you are in a push-up position on your forearms. Keep a straight line from heels to hips to shoulders. Pull your naval to your spine and press your heels back. Rooted firmly into the floor with your forearms, lift the back of your heart and broaden your shoulder blades. Fire up your core, engaging your abdominal muscles as you lengthen your tailbone toward your heels. Hold for ten breaths.
As much as alpine skiiers want to build lower body strength and power, you also want to release tension from heavily worked muscle groups such as thighs and hip flexors. These next four postures will open the muscles of the lower legs and back body.
Standing figure four
Figure four provides a deep stretch into your outer hip and glute and promotes ankle strength.
From Chair Pose:
Cross your right ankle on your left knee. Pull your right toes back toward your shin. Bring your weight into your heels. Sit your hips down and back. Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.
Crescent Moon lengthens the muscles of your thighs and hip flexors. If you find kneeling uncomfortable, try putting a folded blanket or towel under your back knee:
Start with your hands and knees on the floor, hips directly over your knees. Bring your right foot between your hands. Place your hands on your front thigh. Let your hips sink down and forward until you feel a stretch through your back thigh and hip. Your knee can bend out in front of your ankle, but it shouldn't go right or left. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Relax and repeat on opposite side
Half Frog Pose
Half Frog is an intense thigh stretch. Be mindful in this posture that you don't have any pain or discomfort in your knee joint:
Lie on your stomach. Press your forearms into the floor. Lift your head and chest. Bend your right leg. Reach back with your right hand and capture your ankle (you can also wrap a strap, belt or towel around your ankle and hold onto that). Gently pull your heel toward your seat. Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.
Hands to feet pose
Release tension through the entire back side of your body with this deep forward fold. Be sure to keep your torso on your thighs during the entire posture. Bent knees are OK. Allowing your torso to come away from your thighs may irritate your low back:
Stand with your big toes touching. Bend your knees a lot. Fold forward and bring your hands to the back of your calves, letting the crown of your head reach toward the floor. Slide your hands down the back of your legs as far as you can. Hold onto the back of your calves or ankles, or try sliding your fingers under your heels. Pull your elbows behind your legs and let your shoulders lift away from your ears. Press your torso against your thighs and begin to straighten your legs. Breathe, filling the backside of your lungs. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Release slowly.
Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon's only dedicated yoga studio. An alignment-based yoga studio, Peak Yoga offers classes to nourish your body, mind and spirit. You can find out more about Peak Yoga at PeakYogaStudio.com.