These 8 essential yoga poses are designed to improve your flexibility and build strength and balance to help get you fit for skiing and keep you injury free.
Skiing and yoga are two activities at opposite ends of the spectrum. Where skiing is fast and exhilarating, yoga is calm and meditative. Although very different, both sports complement each other, the yang of fast paced skiing being balanced with the contemplative yin of yoga.
One of yoga’s biggest benefits when it comes to skiing is injury prevention. We ask a lot from our bodies when we ski – cold muscles must perform intensively, along with flexibility, balance and high levels of concentration. Not only that, skiing also heavily dominates the muscles in the lower body, shortening them and leaving the upper body weak in comparison. Yoga helps to balance these bodily demands from skiing, by lengthening tight muscles, strengthening the upper body and relaxing the mind. By introducing yoga into your fitness program you’ll become a better skier.
Strengthen and Lengthen the Legs
The muscles in the upper legs can all suffer from shortening when skiing. This shortening in turn can put strain onto the knee joint, potentially resulting in injury. Quadriceps become overdeveloped and this in turns tightens and shortens the hamstrings. This can also happen to the inner thigh muscles, limiting the range of motion and straining the knee joint. It is important to lengthen all four sides of the upper legs through yoga, to minimize strain on surrounding joints. There should be a focus on stretching the quadriceps, hamstrings, inner thigh and outer thigh.
Make Tight Hips a Thing of the Past
Hip flexors are crucial when it comes to maximising agility in skiing. Unfortunately, in these modern times these muscles are rarely used due to our primarily sedentary way of life. We sit to work, eat, relax and drive – a far cry from our hunter gatherer ancestors, who consistently used their bodies and strengthened muscles.
Our largest muscles are in the hip area, and building strength in this location for skiing enables us to achieve better balance, improve agility and provide support to our upper bodies. Weaker hips promote bad turning habits – skiers with poorly built hips end up jerking their upper body to initiate turns instead of using the lower body. This awkward movement can lead to improper skiing stance and posture, and pain in the upper and lower back.
For Skiers, Core is Key
The lower body is predominantly utilised in skiing, and so it is important to strengthen the core and upper body so as not to create an imbalance. Engaging your core muscles when skiing enhances good turns on the slopes and alleviates pressure from the knees. It also supports stability of the spine when making bending and twisting motions, as well as helping with balance. Strong abdominal muscles help distribute weight and takes pressure off the muscles in the legs, helping to minimise injury.
The 8 Pose Yoga Routine for Skiers
1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Benefits: The standing forward bend pose loosens hamstrings whilst lengthening the spine and stretching calves.
2. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)
Benefits: This pose stretched the hip flexors and hamstrings on the back leg whilst strengthening the feet, ankles, glutes and quads on the front leg.
3. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Benefits: This is a classic skiing and snowboarding pose. It warms up the quadriceps whilst building strength in them.
4. Reclined Cobbler’s Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Benefits: This pose helps improve flexibility in the hip flexors, which in turn improves posture and lower back flexibility.
5. Forward Kneeling Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Benefits: This pose improves flexibility of the hip flexors, which in turn improves posture and lower back stability. It also improves calf flexibility, which is beneficial to both skiing and snowboarding.
6. Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Benefits: Twists improve spine mobility, glute flexibility and stretches the outer thigh muscles. All essential for staying injury free whilst skiing.
7. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Benefits: This classic pose is great for building core stability. It stretches the back and in turn opens the chest. You can build upper body strength by going from the plank position and pressing back into downward facing dog.
8. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Benefits: This yoga pose is great for improving balance as well as promoting mobility in the hip and knee joint, which is crucial when making turns whilst skiing. The tree pose also strengthens the quadriceps, calves, ankles and spine.
So there you have it, a yoga routine of just 8 essential poses to stretch out your muscles and joints, add flexibility to your spine and improve upper body strength and balance. If you work through the poses each day in the run up to your ski holiday and during your trip, you’ll feel the benefits physically and you’ll reap the rewards when it comes to your skiing.