Hitting the slopes this season? Whether you’re an off-piste adrenaline junkie or a skiing rookie, it’s well worth adding a few targeted exercise to your fitness to prepare your body for an exhilarating few days hoofing down the mountains.
You might think skiing and snowboarding are a world away from yoga, but they all demand strength, stamina, balance and coordination. Good concentration and the ability to be ‘in the moment’ are essential to avoid spending your holiday face-planting in the snow, while breathing exercises can prepare your lungs for high altitudes.
Burning calfs and quads, sore shoulders and a stiff back are common complaints after a day skiing, but put the work in now with this yoga sequence before you pull on your ski boots and you’ll enjoy your break so much more — and avoid injury, too.
1. Skiing is, essentially, one big chair pose, so this will get you into the groove nicely.
Stand with your feet together or parallel with your hands by your sides in mountain pose. Ground down with your feet and draw the knees up to feel strength in the legs. Feel the abdominal muscles engage and relax the shoulders. Focus on the gentle ebb and flow of your breath.Inhale and, as you exhale, bend the knees and sink back as if you were going to sit on a chair while lifting your arms to shoulder height, palms facing down. Inhale and return to standing. Repeat 10-20 times.Now hold chair pose for 5-10 breaths. Make sure your weight is balanced between the ball and heels of the feet. Keep your torso as upright as possible by engaging abdominal muscles and lifting the chest. Steady the breath and relax your shoulders and jaw. Repeat as often as your thighs allow!
2. Dancer pose is a deliciously deep stretch for the thighs and front of the torso —ideal to counterbalance the effects of hunching over your skis for hours on end. Better balance is also essential to avoid wiping out!
Start in mountain pose and find a point on the floor to focus on. Transfer your weight onto the right foot. Bend the left leg and reach back with your left hand to grab hold of the foot or ankle.
Raise the right hand in the air. Begin to push the left foot into the hand to deepen the stretch, and lift the chest to create a slight backbend. Keep the hips squared to avoid the wobbles. Focus on your steady, smooth inhale and exhale for ten breaths. Release and repeat on the other side.
3. A lovely hip release and core strengthener, low lunges are perfect all-round skiing prep work.
Come to all fours and wriggle the right foot forward between your hands. Place hands on hips and start to lunge forward, dropping the pelvis and bending the front knee as much as possible. Lift the chest and engage your abdominal muscles to protect the lower back. Extend your hands above the head in a V shape.
Keep the shoulders relaxed, soften the jaw and come back to the breath. Stay here for up to ten breaths; repeat on the other side.
4. This gentle twist opens a tight back and shoulders to help you master those tricky parallel turns.
From a kneeling position, drop your hips to the left hand side, keeping your heels close to your right hip. Twist to your right, using the fingertips on the ground like pivots to deepen the pose. Turn to look over your shoulder to complete the twist of the spine.
Stay for up to ten breaths and repeat on the other side.
Published in the Irish Daily Mail, January 16, 2019.
Photographs: Richard Callaghan