Work It Out: Yoga recovery for skiers and snowboarders
November 19, 2017
You've had a great day on the mountain. You're ready to get out of your boots, find your way to a hot tub and relax with a beer. Before trading your base layer for your bathing suit, hydrate with at least one big glass of water and spend a little time restoring your body with a few yoga poses.
Stretching your body does more than relieve soreness in your muscles — it also helps reduce your chance of injury. The following four poses were recommended by Leslie Glenn, a professional snowboarder for over 10 years who still loves being on the mountain but makes plenty of time for her yoga mat.
After finding yoga as a freshman at the University of Vermont in 1999, Glenn quickly brought her practice into snowboard training. She found that the restorative aspects of yoga were as important as the conditioning.
"Releasing tension in the muscles and connective tissues optimizes recovery, reaction time and efficiency for skiing and snowboarding," she said. "Putting aside time to rest and restore sometimes appears counterintuitive in our achievement-driven society, but it allows the body the opportunity to recalibrate and is essential to stay healthy and agile."
Now a yoga instructor, she brings her passion for snow sports and yoga to the "Yoga for Skiers and Snowboarders" workshops at Peak Yoga in Dillon on Sunday, Dec. 13 from 3-4:30 p.m.
Legs up the wall
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"This is one of my favorite postures," she said. "It promotes the flow of blood away from your legs, which then of course means that fresh, oxygen-filled blood comes in right after it to nourish your muscles. If you've been doing anything that brings significant amounts of blood to your legs (like snowboarding) or if blood flow to/from your feet has been constricted (like in ski boots), this is a great option for you. I also suggest trying this when under stress, having a tough time sleeping or after any long travel, especially flying."
Take a fetal position on your right hip, with your knees close to your chest and your hips a few inches from the wall.
Roll onto your back and extend your legs up the wall. If your pelvis feels tucked under, or your hips are not fully on the floor, back away from the wall a few inches.
Hold for two or three minutes.
Reclining hand-to-big toe pose
This pose will lengthen the hamstrings, calves and IT band (iliotibial band, a tissue that runs from the side of your hip all of the way down past your knee). Hamstrings are key players in alpine skiing and snowboarding, so you want them to stay supple and responsive.
Step one (for hamstrings)
Lay on the floor with both legs extended.
Bring your right knee into your chest and wrap a strap around the ball of the right foot (you can also use a tie, a belt or a t-shirt).
Extend the right foot up to the ceiling.
Slide your hands down the straps until your elbows, triceps and shoulders can relax on the floor.
Press your left hamstring down and press the back of your right knee forward.
Take 5 to 10 breaths.
Step two (for IT band)
Cross the stretching leg 12 inches to the left at a diagonal. Keep both hips grounded down — if you cross too far, your right hip will pop up off the floor.
Hold here 5 to 10 more breaths. Repeat both variations on the opposite side.
Your core is working hard before, during and after your time on the mountain. Proper form requires that both skiers and boarders engage abdominal and lower core muscles. Bumps can impact the soft tissue around the spine, and self-correction to avoid a fall or a tree can lead to lower or mid-back strain. Simply carrying gear can also stress your muscles. Take a few minutes to lengthen the spine and side body with this relaxing and easy side stretch.
Stand on your knees. If your knees are sensitive or the surface is hard, kneel on a folded blanket.
Stretch your right leg out to the right and place the sole of the foot on the floor.
Reach your arms overhead and inhale to lengthen the side body.
Exhale and bend at the waist to the right side, resting the right hand on top of the right leg.
Take 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
Hip flexors, hamstrings and quads all get a little love in this deep stretch. For many athletes, the quads and hip flexors are stronger than the hamstrings, resulting in a forward tilt of the pelvis (what I lovingly call "cheerleader butt") and a constant state of over-extended hamstrings. Releasing tension from quads and hip flexors will promote a level pelvis. So will exercises that strengthen the core and hamstrings.
Begin on hands and knees.
Bring right foot forward to the outside edge of your right hand.
Sink your weight down into your hips. If you feel comfortable, lower down onto both forearms.
Gaze down at the mat, keeping the back of the neck long and the chest open.
Optional quad stretch
To move even deeper into the pose, bend the back leg and reach back with the right hand to capture your left foot.
Turn your gaze over the right shoulder.
Lean your torso back in space.
Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
This article was originally published Dec. 21, 2015, and also appeared in the 2018 Explore Summit winter magazine.
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