One of the best methods to support your body during ski season is to complement your skiing with yoga. There are a number of postures that are excellent for the body both before and after you hit the slopes. Yoga not only enhances flexibility but also helps to increase strength and endurance.
There are a number of yoga centers throughout the North Shore and Truckee offering yoga classes for skiers and boarders. Emily Weer, a local yoga teacher and massage therapist, teaches a yoga class for skiers and boarders at Tahoe Yoga and Wellness that conditions the body for the winter ski season.
Emily Weert demonstrates the Dancer Pose
“There are many amazing yoga poses that build strength, balance and body awareness for the mountains. The key is to practice them with connection to breath and awareness of alignment. The legs are truly an extension of the core, and building strength from here is key. Knowing proper ways to stretch the hips, legs, IT band and psoas after a big day allows us the gift of going hard day after day,” explains Weer.
Before hitting the slopes
Breathing techniques are excellent while skiing. Engaging the breath helps with focus and keeps us present. Sun Salutations are also great to practice before heading out to the hill. The flow opens, stretches and strengthens many parts of the body we engage when skiing. Here are a few poses to practice before you get out and ski or board. It is highly recommended to have a trained yoga instructor walk you through the poses for safety and alignment.
Chair Pose is beneficial for strengthening the knees and quadriceps to support the ski body. Stand with feet together and raise arms up with palms facing each other. Bend the knees, and squat down as if you were going to sit on a chair. Press shoulders down and back and reach out through the fingertips. Breathe 3 to 5 breaths.
Boat Pose is a great pose for enhancing core strength. To prepare for the pose sit on the floor with legs in front of you. Slowly lean back and rest on your hips, bend your knees, stretch arms forward palms facing each other, and straighten your legs. Breathe 3 to 5 breaths.
Tree Pose helps to strengthen our balance, which is imperative for skiing and snowboarding. Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Spread your toes and ground feet into mat. Bend your right knee and bring the sole of the right foot onto the left thigh, the heel in the inner left groin. Place hands together at the heart and breathe. Repeat on the other side.
When you are finished a long day on the hill, here are a few après-ski yoga poses to practice. Forward Bends are great for stretching out the back of the hamstrings while, Dancer Pose stretches and lengthens the muscles in the front of the body and stretch the quads. This pose is also great for balance.
To practice Dancer Pose, stand with your feet together, inhale and shift your weight onto your right foot, and lift your left heel toward your butt as you bend the knee. Grasp the left foot with the left hand. Raise right hand toward the sky while holding the left foot. Exhale and slowly bend forward as you lift your left foot up and away from your torso. Try to keep your left arm straight, lifting your foot up so that your spine arches into a back bend as your ribcage opens.
Finish off with a Reclining Twist to lengthen your lateral torso muscle by lying on your back with legs extended. Extend arms out to sides. Bend your right knee and place the right foot on the left thigh, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Twist to the left gently dropping your right knee over the left side of your body. Keep your left hand resting gently on your right knee. Turn your head to the right. Hold for 2 to 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
There are plenty of places in Tahoe to practice yoga and support your ski body this season. If you never tried yoga, most studios offer classes for beginners that will guide you through each pose.
Priya Hutner is a registered ERYT-500 hour Yoga Alliance certified yoga instructor and has been practicing yoga, pranayama and meditation and teaching for more than 20 years. Her yoga style includes a strong emphasis on breathing and meditation.