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HOW YOGA HELPS YOUR SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING 

Yoga improves balance, strength and flexibility, but can it help optimise skiing and snowboarding ability? Snow+Rock Marketing Assistant Daisy Maddinson joined Ski Club Great Britain for a snow sports-specific hot yoga class to find out.


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When I turned up at Fierce Grace Brixton Studio in normal yoga attire (long pants and a tee), I was surprised and in slight dismay to find out that the class was in fact a hot yoga class, with temperatures averaging 39°C.

 

Entering the room felt like that same overwhelming surge of heat and humidity that you get when stepping off of a plane in a tropical country. Once I had gotten over the initial shock of the heat, I settled down at the back of the studio with around 20 others and got stuck into the class.

 

The class began with the instructor asking if there were any injuries in the class – almost a silly question in a room full of skiers and snowboarders – and encouraged us to stop if we experienced pain and to never push our bodies too far.

 

 

However, even to someone who knows the difference between Warrior and Cobra position (pictured), finding comfort in these poses was difficult because this was no beginners’ class!

 

After planking with an arm and opposite leg raised, and then struggling to sit in squat position with my arms stretched skyward for what felt like forever, it was safe to say that I felt the burn!

 

Dripping with sweat, I was walked through poses that would strengthen key muscles, improve stamina and reduce injuries.

 


The core and quads were given a thorough workout, and it’s understandable how doing this a few times each week could soon have you feeling like a chiselled snow-god, ready to take on the toughest terrain.

 

We left the hotbox feeling tired and relieved, not to mention a stone lighter from the amount we’d sweated!

 

Is yoga for every winter sports enthusiast, though? We caught up with instructor Michael Eley to find out more:

Has Yoga Helped your Performance on the Mountain?

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On a trip to Tahoe in 2008 I broke both my ankles snowboarding – yoga formed a large part of my rehab. Yoga has made me more aware of how to use my body and improved my movement. It has taught me how to stay calm under pressure, breathe better, hone concentration and clear my mind. All of these things translate into better performance on the mountain.

 

Which Yoga Poses Help Strengthen Skiing and Boarding Muscles?

Standing postures help to strengthen leg muscles. Utkatasana, Awkward Pose (pictured), lunges with the front leg bent (like Crescent Pose or Warrior Pose) and one-leg balancing postures (like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) are excellent.

 

Plank Pose is one of the best postures for core strength.

 

The glutes, lower back and hip flexors all stabilise the core muscles too: practise Awkward Pose to strengthen the glutes, and Boat Pose for the hip flexors and abs.

 

You also need flexibility to support your weight through a large range of movements. Yoga is excellent for this.

 

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How Can Yoga Improve Balance?

Yoga is excellent for improving balance and developing increased proprioception, which is your ability to know where different body parts are in space. It’s a kind of self-awareness that is really important for surfers, skiers and snowboarders.

 

Yoga also teaches you to live in the present moment. The level of concentration it requires means that nothing else can be in your mind while you’re practicing a posture. Just like skiing or snowboarding, you enter a state of flow where the future and the past do not exist, just the moment that you are experiencing in the present.

How Can Yoga Help Prevent Injuries?

Having greater control, strength and flexibility will make injuries less likely. When skiing or boarding, you hold extra tension in certain muscles groups over a prolonged period of time; yoga helps to balance this out while avoiding the overuse of certain muscles, which is the key to preventing injuries.

Which Style of Yoga is Suitable for Skiers and Snowboarders?

All yoga is good for skiers and snowboarders, so it’s best to find a style which suits you. Hot yoga like Fierce Grace yoga and Bikram yoga are very accessible to beginners and thoroughly stretch and strengthen the body.

 

Not everyone loves the heat – room temperature styles like Ashtanga yoga and other Vinyasa styles are great.

What are the Benefits of Hot Yoga?

Doing any kind of exercise or physical activity in the heat conditions the body more efficiently. The heart has to work harder to maintain body temperature, so the cardiovascular system improves.

 

You also get acclimated to the heat; this means that your body responds better to heat, which is why it’s so popular with performance athletes. The heat hugely improves circulation, which has tremendous therapeutic benefits for the muscles, internal organs and digestive, nervous, endocrine and immune systems.


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