7 yoga poses for the slopes
December 21, 2016
Snow has arrived! If last weekend wasn’t enough to get you out on the hill, we’re not sure what you’re waiting for. As you take to the slopes, add yoga to your conditioning routine to improve power, agility and reflexes on the mountain.
Alpine skiing is a dynamic sport. It depends on strength and flexibility in your hips, thighs and lower legs, as well as stability from your core. Core muscles help you maintain balance. They also reduce dependence on leg muscles, making you more efficient and postponing muscle fatigue. Your lower leg muscles are responsible for pressure when edging. Thigh muscles — both hamstrings and quads — bend and straighten your legs to control pressure and absorb ground impact forces. Quad strength also protects your knees from ACL and other ligament tears — the most prevalent ski injury. 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 muscled required for skiing. Try them a few times a week to feel the difference on (and off) piste.
Crescent Moon lengthens muscles of the thighs and hip flexors. If kneeling is uncomfortable, try placing a folded blanket or towel beneath the back knee.
- Start with your hands and knees on the floor, and hips directly over the knees.
- Bring your right foot between your hands.
- Bring your hands to the thigh of your front leg and drop your shoulders away from your ears.
- Sink hips down and forward until you feel a stretch through the 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.
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Crescent Lunge, like Crescent Moon, stretches hip flexors while simultaneously toning the legs and core. This pose also improves coordination by requiring you to center your weight while lifting your back heel.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Take a big step back with your right foot, keeping the right heel lifted and toes flexed.
- Bend your front knee until it is directly over the ankle and bring your arms overhead, with palms facing each other.
- Gently encourage the right hip forward and lengthen the tailbone down, drawing the lower belly up.
- Find a focal point for balance and old for 10 breaths.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Balance depends on core strength, but you need more than six-pack abs. Stability comes from core muscles found deep in the torso. Forearm plank targets those muscles to enhance stability and increase strength.
- Kneel on the floor, facing forward.
- 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 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.
- Root firmly into the floor with your forearms and lift the back of the heart, broadening your shoulder blades.
- Fire up your core, engaging your abdominal muscles as you lengthen your tailbone toward your heels.
- Hold for 10 breaths.
Bridge pose is a gentle back bend to open hip flexors and strengthen glutes. Squeeze a block (or a rolled bath towel) between your thighs to engage your muscles fully. This helps avoid a common issue in the posture: creating an uncomfortable bend in the lower back.
- Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet hip-width apart.
- Bring heels under your knees with toes pointed forward.
- Keeping arms close to the body, make a 90-degree angle in the elbow and point your fingers at the ceiling.
- Press triceps down and squeeze the block between the thighs.
- Engage your glutes and lift hips as high as possible. Your weight should be in your feet and shoulders — not your head.
- Hold for 10 breaths.
- For an additional challenge, remove the block from between your thighs, root down through your left foot, bend your right knee into your chest, and then extend your right heel to the sky. Hold for 10 breaths and release.
Chair pose with leg lift
Chair pose strengthens thighs, hips and core while also promoting proper knee alignment.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart 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 the toes.
- Fire your thighs and glutes, and lift the chest.
- Pull your low belly in and sit deeper into the pose.
- Hold for five breaths and release.
- For an added challenge, lift one leg, straighten the knee and flex the foot.
- Repeat on opposite side.
Hands to feet pose
This deep forward fold releases tension through the entire back side of the body. Keep your torso on your thighs during the entire posture, and remember: bent knees are OK. Allowing the torso to come away from the thighs can irritate the low back.
- Stand with your big toes touching and bend your knees.
- 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.
Warrior 3 incorporates every principle of balance, strength, stability and focus. Balancing on one foot tones muscles in the hips, legs and core, which are critical for joint stability and injury prevention. If needed, use a wall for balance.
- Facing a wall, place your hands at hip level on the wall, shoulder-width apart.
- Walk your feet back until your body forms a right angle, with hips directly over feet.
- Plant your knuckles firmly into the wall, pointing the index finger toward the ceiling
- Keep your ears in line with your biceps.
- Lift the right leg parallel to the floor and flex the right foot, engaging through the deep core to stabilize your torso.
- Drop your right hip down to be in line with the left.
- Hold for five breaths.
- Release and switch sides.
Pigeon releases tension in your hips, groin and inner thighs.
- Start on hands and knees, and bring your right knee directly behind your right wrist.
- Place your right ankle behind your left wrist. This posture is more welcoming when your foot is closer to your groin.
- Let your right shin come to the floor and “floint” your right foot (point the foot and flex the toes, as if you’re in high heels).
- Extend your left leg behind you, with the left knee pointing down and toes pointing behind you. If the right hip does not reach the floor, place a folded blanket under one or both hips, whichever feels better.
- Gently fold over the front leg.
- Hold for 10-20 breaths.
- Slowly release and stretch out the right leg.
- Repeat on opposite side.
Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon's only dedicated yoga studio. Designed to challenge both the body and the mind, Peak Yoga classes build muscular strength, physical endurance and emotional resilience. Find out more about Peak Yoga at peakyogastudio.com.
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