Yoga offers many rewards for winter sports fans. From better balance and core strength to injury prevention and a more focused mind, this series of yoga poses will refine your balance and strengthen the key muscle groups (quadriceps, glutes, ankles, abdominals, and back) that you use in winter sports. If you’re new to snow sports, practicing this sequence regularly for several weeks before you strap on your skis, board, or skates will help you build the strength you’ll need.
If you’re going skiing today, move through this sequence first to wake up the key muscle groups you’ll be using. The sequence is designed to be practiced in the order below. Practice often and respect how your body feels each time.
Alternate Arm and Leg Raises
Directions: Kneel on all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Inhale and simultaneously lift your left arm to shoulder level. Reach and lift your right leg parallel to the floor, reaching back through your toes. As you reach though your limbs, lengthen your spine. Keep your pelvis level and your belly firm. Stay in the pose for five seconds and then return to all fours.
Practice the pose five times and then repeat with the right arm and left leg. It’s easy to hold your breath in this pose so be aware of each inhalation and each exhalation.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Directions: Kneel on all fours with your hips over your knees and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers slightly turned out. Turn your toes under.
Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor.
Keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lift the buttock bones toward the ceiling.
With an exhalation, push your top thighs back into your hamstrings and stretch your heels down toward the floor. Stay for 15 seconds breathing evenly.
Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I)
Directions: From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, lunge your left foot forward and place it between your hands.
Lower your right heel to the ground if possible then turn the right foot in 45 to 60 degrees. If not possible, stay in a high lunge with the heel off the ground.
Keep your left knee bent, bring your torso upright, raise your arms overhead. Press down firmly with the back foot while squaring the front of your pelvis as much as possible to the wall in front of you. Keep your shoulder blades drawn down and your low belly in and up, reach through your arms. Hold for five to 10 seconds, return to Downward-Facing Dog.
Repeat on the other side. When you’re finished, return to Downward-Facing Dog for three breaths. Next, walk your feet between your hands and stand upright.
Powerful Pose (Utkatasana)
Directions: From a standing position, step your feet together. Raise your arms in front of you to shoulder height, parallel to the floor, palms face each other or if you are able, raise your arms overhead. Keep the heels down, bend your knees and lower your torso as if you are to sit in a chair. Draw your navel back in the direction of the spine as you tuck the tailbone under slightly. Keep the inner thighs pressed together and press the tops of the thigh bones down toward the heels. Draw your shoulder blades down your back. Take your tailbone down toward the floor and in toward your pubis to keep the lower back long. Lift your torso as you press into your heels.
Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, straighten your legs, and come out. Repeat five times.
Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
Directions: From an upright position, step your right foot back into a lunge position. With the chest on the left thigh, stretch your arms forward, parallel to the floor and parallel to each other, palms face each other. Simultaneously, (a) bring the hips and body weight forward onto the left leg, (b) straighten the left leg, (c) step the right leg in and raise it to the level of the right hip. As best as you can keep the right hip down. Stay in this position for 5 to 10 seconds.
Release back to the lunge. Bring your hands to the floor on either side of the left foot, and then step your right foot forward. Repeat on the other side.
Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
Directions: Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Press your hands on the floor behind your hips, fingers pointing toward the toes. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly.
Bend your knees, then lift your feet off the floor, so that the calves are parallel to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone into the floor and lift your pubis toward your navel. If possible, slowly straighten your knees, raise the tips of your toes slightly above the level of your eyes. If this isn’t possible remain with your knees bent. Stretch your arms alongside the legs, parallel to each other and the floor. If this isn’t possible, keep the hands on the floor beside your hips or hold on to the backs of your thighs.
Stay in the pose for 5 to 10 seconds. Release the legs and sit upright. Repeat three times.
Finish the sequence with these postures. Reclined Leg Stretch lengthens hamstrings and stretches hips, thighs, groins, and calves. The twist relieves soreness in the lower back and can help relieve upper-back stiffness.
Reclined Leg Stretch (Supta Padangusthasana)
Directions: Lie on your back with your legs together. Extend both legs strongly through your heels.
Keep your left leg tunneling into the ground as you bend your right leg and draw it into your chest. Place a strap around the arch of the right foot and hold the strap loosely in both hands.
Extend your right leg straight up. Walk your hands up the strap until the elbows are fully extended. Keep your neck relaxed and make sure you are not throwing your head back.
Lengthen the back of the leg between the heel and sits bone. Try not to be overly enthusiastic about pulling your leg toward your chest. Instead emphasize the grounding of your left leg as you draw your arms back into the sockets and lift your collarbones.
Stay for 30 seconds to one minute breathing evenly. Slowly release. Repeat on the left side.
Revolved Abdomen Pose (Jathara Parivartanasana)
Directions: Lie on your back with your legs bent, your feet on the floor, and your arms out to the sides in a T-shape. Flex your feet and draw your legs into your chest. On an exhalation, release your knees to the left toward the floor. Try to keep both shoulders on the ground as you extend and press your arms into the ground. Keep your neck and throat soft. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Inhale, bring your knees up to the center. Repeat on the opposite side.
Modifications: If this feels too intense, place a block, folded blanket or bolster under your knees and allow them to rest on that support.
Accomplished yoga teacher, Lynn Burgess, combines her unique alignment based style with over 20 years of teaching experience to help athletes achieve their goals. Visit www.yogafromtheheart.com to learn more.