Skiing is not an activity for the faint of heart. It requires stamina, strength, balance and intense concentration. It is unfortunately very easy to injure yourself. Yoga can help to reduce the chance of injury. It can help you to remain flexible yet strong, maintaining and improving your proprioception, balance and concentration.
Yoga for the sporadic skier
If you are someone who ventures to the snowy peaks once in a while, your body has to acclimatise to the intense demands of sliding down a mountain. This adaption is not instant and this increases the risk of injury. Make the habit of practicing yoga before and/or apres ski, and give your body a chance to avoid injury and adapt quicker by increasing strength and flexibility. If you are really organised you could build up your practice before you go on your ski holiday!
Yoga for the committed skier
If you are well used to the slopes, hitting the piste every weekend, your body and mind are probably tuned into the process by now. You are hopefully already aware of your weak spots. Do you overcompensate in one area? In snowboarding, do you feel more confident in one turn over the other? You can use yoga to help strengthen the weak areas and become a little looser in the tight areas – creating balance in the body. This will help your performance and experience on the slopes.
What should you watch out for?
Generally skiers have to keep an eye on their hip flexors and quadriceps. The bent forward motion of going down hill can tighten these areas. Being constantly tight in these areas can weaken the hamstrings. If you core and glutes are weak, combined with the tight quadriceps this can put unnecessary strain on the knees and consequently your ankles. So keep your legs fluid yet strong, engage your core and glutes and look after your ankles!
Yoga poses for skiers
In general standing poses and balancing poses are great to practise as they help improve stamina and strength in your legs as well as tune up your balance. You also want to practise poses that open up the hip flexors and help with tone and strength in the glutes and core.
Try a combination of some or all of the following.
- Mountain Pose -Tadasana
- Chair Pose – Utkatasana
- Extended hand to big toe pose – Utthita Hasta Padangustasana
- Warrior I / Virabhadrasana I
- Warrior II Virabhadrasana II
- One-legged King Pigeon Pose – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
- Crescent Lunge – Anjaneyasana
Practise in class
Yoga for skiers or snowboarders with MacKenzie Miller
Yoga and Injuries
Increasing your strength and flexibility can help prevent strains and sprains but if you pick up an injury how can you continue to practice Yoga safely?
The golden rule is to practice mindfully with awareness so that you can listen to your body. You are the best person to judge whether something feels right or wrong. Of course if you are experiencing more than just discomfort you should speak with your doctor or physiotherapist for advice.
Here are a couple of guidelines if you are practising with minor injuries:
- Knee and ankle injuries: be careful of your alignment in poses like Warrior I and II make sure your front knee is over your ankle not bending inwards. In Pigeon pose push out through the ball of the foot of your bent leg, this will help to protect the knee. You can also try this pose on your back to take the weight away from the knee or choose a different hip opening pose.
- Back injuries: If you have lower back pain keep your knees bent in forward bend poses. Some gentle back bends can be helpful but it will depend on your injury so again be very mindful when you practice.
- Upper back, shoulder stiffness: Modify standing poses by keeping your hands on your hips or your arms lower (for example in Chair Pose)