Planning a trip to the mountains soon? In addition to the regular fitness routine you use to get in shape for ski and snowboard season, practicing certain yoga postures on a regular basis not only improves your performance by helping you build strength and flexibility in your legs, but in the long run it will help you prevent injuries in the future. According to senior Iyengar teacher, Marla Apt, committing to standing poses in the weeks and months leading up to your ski trip will help your knees track properly and keep the upper and lower portion of your knees in line. “The standing poses we work on align the bones of the leg,” she says, as well as improve hip rotation “so that it doesn’t occur in the knees and they don’t take that torque,” she says.
Apt suggests using this sequence to help you strengthen your legs, “especially around the knees and will bring limberness and elasticity to the area.” By building your thigh strength, you’ll protect your knees from all the flexion you experience on the slopes.
1. Uttkatasana: Chair Pose
Stand with your feet together, legs straight and extend your arms overhead, making sure to keep your trapezius travelling down your back. Then bend your knees, like you’re doing a squat, but don’t let your thighs get lower than being parallel to the floor. Your knees should go straight forward and not fall into each other. Keep your weight in your heels so you can lift up your toes. Extend your arms straight up to the ceiling so that your torso doesn’t lean forward over your legs. It’s important not to arch from your lower back. Keep your pelvis tilted forward.
2. Virabhadrasana II: Warrior II
Stand with your legs spread as wide as your arms, parallel to the floor and feet directly underneath them. Turn your right foot out so that your knee is over the middle toe of your right foot. Extend your arms straight out and bend your right knee 90 degrees. Make sure your knee is right over your middle toe. Keep your shoulders centered over your hips. Switch sides.
3. Trikonasana: Triangle Pose
Use the same distance for your legs as you did in Warrior II. Stay straight, upright. Turn your right foot out and your left foot turned a little bit inward. Extend your torso over your right leg, press your weight into your left outer heel, straighten your legs and reach toward your shin. Reach your arms in opposite directions and open your chest.
4. Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana
Face a chair, counter top or window sill that’s about hip height. Put your right foot on this support. Keep both legs straight, your left perpendicular to the floor. Your right toes should reach for the ceiling. Pull your left knee cap up, engage your quads as you strengthen your left leg. Keep your hips level with the floor—don’t let one come up higher than the other. Keep your shoulders, back and chest up.
Christina Scannapiego is the Outdoors editor for Active.com. She loves yoga and is fanatical about getting her endorphins pumping outside.