Work It Out: Yoga poses for snow shoveling |

Work It Out: Yoga poses for snow shoveling

The shoulder opener yoga pose, back view.
Phil Lindeman / |

More than 200,000 across the nation: That’s how many people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors offices and clinics for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually in 2014, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The total doesn’t even include the other 25,000 who were injured using snowblowers.

For most of us, shoveling snow is just part of living in the mountains, and we usually do it without considering what we’re doing to our bodies.

So what do you do to avoid injuring yourself, especially as the heavy, wet snow of spring comes in? Here are a few suggestions for yoga poses to stretch out before and after you shovel, as well as some tips on how to shovel in the safest way possible.

Puppy pose

Puppy pose is simply downward-facing dog on your knees. With your knees on the floor it’s easier to get your chest closer to your thighs and open the low back and shoulders.

Kneel on the floor, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.

Keeping your neck straight, walk your hands forward until your forehead rests on the floor. If your forehead doesn’t reach the floor you can rest it on a book or a pillow.

Sink your chest toward your thighs, keeping hips over your knees.

Avoid letting hips reach back toward your heels.

Hold for 30-60 seconds with slow breaths.

Shoulder opener

The name pretty much says it all — this opens the shoulder and the bicep. The posture not only feels good after shoveling, but after anything that keeps your shoulders internally rotating, such as being at a computer or driving long distances.

Lie on your stomach, with hands palms down under the shoulders.

Extend your right arm out so that it’s parallel to your shoulder, with the palm facing the floor.

Press into your left hand to roll onto your right shoulder and right hip, stacking left hip on top of the right.

Rest the side of your head on the floor. Try to keep all five fingers of your right hand touching the floor.

From here, you can stack your feet on top of each other or let your left foot rest on the floor behind the right leg.

Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.


Sphinx is designed to bend the spine — particularly the low back — backwards, counter-acting the forward fold required to move snow. It can also bring welcome relief to people suffering from chronic low-back pain or herniated disks.

Note: if you have chronic back pain, please check with your physician before adopting any new physical activity, including yoga.

Lie on your stomach with your feet hip width apart.

Prop yourself onto your forearms. If this posture feels too intense, place folded blankets, towels or a pillow under the hips.

Walk your hands forward until your elbows are in front of your shoulders.

Relax the low back down and let your hips sink into the floor. Your shoulders and glutes should stay relaxed.

Hold for 60 seconds or more.

Come back down to your stomach and place your head on top of your hands. Repeat.

A word about backbends

Usually when I teach backbends, I encourage people to avoid compression of the low back, but this is the Sphinx here is the Yin version of the posture and is specifically designed to do exactly that — create compression in the low back.

Compression, though, does not mean pain. Pain is never to be expected in yoga and is an indication that the posture is not working for your body. This means it’s time to modify the posture or come out of it entirely.

Shoveling safety 101

In addition to these stretches, follow some general guidelines as you shovel this spring (or anytime):

Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls.

Bend your knees and lift with your legs, not with your back.

Use an ergonomic shovel or, if that is not available, a shovel with a handle that lets you keep your back straight while lifting.

Push snow forward when possible. If you need to throw snow to the side, step in the direction in which you are tossing and turn your body instead of twisting only in the back.

Take frequent breaks when shoveling. To unwind, stand up straight, place your hands near the back of your hips and bend backward slightly (and gently) for several seconds.

If you experience pain from snow shoveling, don’t ignore it. If your pain is acute or continues for more than a couple of days it’s important to seek professional help to ensure your aren’t doing real damage to muscles, joints or tendons.

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.

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