Yoga can build strength, focus and balance to help you have fun on the slopes.
When you are hitting the slopes for skiing or snowboarding you need your mind and body primed and working together. A smooth run requires fast mental processing, split second judgements, and single-pointed concentration. The body needs to be mobile, strong and balanced.
Yoga brings mind and body together through breathing, mental focus and poses (asana), and can enhance your whole snow sports experience. When mind, breath and body all work as one without distraction, we can enter the state known as flow. Time seems to slow down, we find an ease and rhythm to our movements, and we are completely in the zone.
Below are five yoga poses that you can use to develop focus, leg and core strength, balance and mobility. Add in some focused breathing, meditation or visualisation and this short routine can help you find your own flow on the snow. Hold each of these poses for 30 seconds or more.
1. Mountain pose – Tadasana
In mountain pose first look for the connection of your feet to the ground. Build up through the body for a balanced stance, running your awareness up through the legs, hips, core, spine, shoulders, arms, neck and head. Find a sense of ease, strength and balance while focusing on a full, soft breath. This will help you build body awareness and focus.
2. Chair pose – Utkatasana
From mountain pose, squat low into the ankles and knees, lowering the hips and raising the arms long overhead. Draw the core in, and the spine long. Move the shoulder blades down, away from the ears. Work strength through the legs and stretch through the upper body. This pose builds strength in the glutes, upper legs and back, and stretches the calf muscles.
3. Half Chair pose
This pose adds a component of balance and a hip opener to chair pose. Lift your right leg, and cross your ankle over your left knee. Dorsiflex your foot (press through the heel and pull your toes towards the shin). Open your right knee out to the side.
The legs take a shape similar to a figure four. Then bend into your standing leg further, as in chair pose. Work to keep the standing knee moving directly out over the toes. You can have your hands on your hips, or take the palms together in front of your chest.
4. Warrior 3 pose – Virabhadrasana III
This pose, also known as Superman pose, will develop your leg strength, balance, core control and mental focus, as well as stretching the back of the legs.
Stand with one foot forwards and gradually take your weight over this leg. Don’t lock out your standing leg, but keep a little bit of play in the ankle and knee as you work on the balance.
Keep a strong focus on your alignment. Try to keep your eyes, chest, hips and back toes all pointing to the floor, not rolling up to one side.
Options for your arms include keeping your hands on your hips, taking your arms out like aeroplane wings, or extending them out over your head.
Once in position, work on extending long right through the core and centre of the body. Press out through the back heel (toes pointing down), and grow long through the spine to the crown of your head.
5. Revolved triangle pose – Parivrtta Trikonasana
This challenging pose will work strength and flexibility through the whole of the legs. It works the core, torso, chest, spine and shoulders too.
From standing at the front of your mat, step your left leg well back to a wide stance. Your front toes are pointing straight ahead, your back heel turned out to a comfortable angle (around 45-60 degrees). Use your hands on your hips as a guide to square the pelvis and torso to the front of the mat.
Bring your left arm forward and place the hand low on the right leg. Lower the left shoulder to bring a twist into the spine. Use your right hand on your right hip to keep this leg from swaying out to the right. Try and keep this hip in line with the front toes.
Lengthen the spine over your front leg, using your core, obliques and back muscles. Anchor both feet down strongly as you deepen into the twist. Continue to lengthen through the pose as you extend the right arm directly up. Gaze down to begin with. As you progress, gradually turn the head sideways, then upwards.