Yoga is not about doing the splits and wearing yoga pants; yoga is about the shape of your life.
Yoga is not to be performed; true yoga is lived.
Yoga is an adventure for every body!
Yoga doesn’t care who you have been, yoga cares about who you are becoming. This is one of the reasons why yoga is an ally to those who enjoy skiing.
Yoga itself has been in a constant state of becoming. It is often cited that yoga is 5,000 years old as the yogic system outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra was compiled between 200 B.C.E and 200 C.E. The changes the traditional practice went through over centuries could be considered organic, common to any living organism’s natural evolution. Modern-day yoga, while modelled on the traditional practice, is shaped to suit our evolving Western needs.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Switzerland, that the sport of skiing is quite popular here in Switzerland. This cosy alpine nation is a paradise for skiers, with its many mountains littered with some of the world’s best ski resorts. One of the best ways to become a better skier (other than hitting the slopes) is to practice yoga.
Yoga combines intentional physical positioning with conscious breathing to awaken new perceptions of yourself and your world.
Yoga creates symmetry throughout your whole body, making you strong and flexible in a balanced way.
The practise teaches you to balance the mental impulse, to push, control and be assertive with the complimentary impulse to yield, surrender and be passive. This balanced attitudinal equilibrium, rather than hampering the energy of either impulse, heightens the effectiveness of both, especially for athletes and extreme sports enthusiasts, such as those who love to ski.
When you feel tired and weak, you also feel heavy as though you're dragging yourself around. When you feel energetic and strong, you feel light. A consistent yoga practice will make you strong and light. Imagine you were twice as strong as you are now, you would feel twice as light. You would feel light and buoyant, yet sturdy and sure-footed which would enhance your physical performance no matter how extreme the sport.
As you balance and strengthen your body through consistent practice, your body will develop flexibility, increase mobility, restore lost movement and even dissolve internal conflicts and mental tension. The more flexible you are, the harder it is to lodge pain in your body. The more resilient your body will be.
What is Après-Ski Yoga?
Après-ski is a French term that translates to “after ski,” and refers to any type of post-ski activity. After a great day on the slopes, there are few things more satisfying than sliding out of your boots, dusting off the snow, and enjoying a warm beverage. But adding yoga to your après-ski routine can help you recover more quickly and be ready for another great day on the slopes.
In Après-Ski Yoga, participants ease into yoga postures with slow movements, long stretches, breathing techniques & music. Restorative yoga postures are combined with breath and strengthening exercises to help counter the stress and the strains of an extreme sport, such as skiing, by cultivating attention on breath, strength and relaxation.
“During an Après-Ski Yoga session, I like to position students into postures supported with props like bolsters, blankets and blocks. By activating the para-sympathetic or relaxation response you will assist in calming your nervous system, setting your body up for deep healing, growth and repair. I also like to offer Yoga Therapy Massage to deepen relaxation and release of tension from the body.“
-Heidi Iidholm, Apres-Ski Yoga Teacher
Physical support from props helps apres-ski yoga participants to stay in postures comfortably without strain. The muscles can relax, heart rate lowers and the nervous system can be soothed. A consistent restorative yoga practice can bring relief from pain and rehabilitation from injuries. It can also help your mind transition between states of stress and recovery with more ease, pleasure and presence.
Next time you hit the slopes try this apres-ski yoga sequence to bring balance and mobility to your body so you can continue to do one of your favourite winter activities for years to come.
1. Mountain Pose
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, feet planted on the floor, and relax your arms alongside your body with your elbows straight and your palms facing forward.
Relax here for 5 breaths.
2. Standing Forward Fold
From Mountain Pose, dive forward over your legs, keeping your knees slightly bent to alleviate any strain in your lower back. Standing forward fold stretches the backs of your legs, including the gluteus, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
Hold for 3–5 breaths.
3. Downward Dog
From Forward Fold, place your hand on the ground and step back into Downward Dog. This posture stretches your lower back, the backs of your legs, and your calf muscles.
Stay here for 3–5 breaths.
4. Upward-Facing Dog
From Downward Dog come into Upward-Facing dog. Upward-Facing Dog is a chest opener, but the pose is also great for skiers because it stretches the tops of your feet and the front of your ankles (which are in a flexed position in your ski boots). It also reinforces a stretch of your elbows after a day of bent-elbow positioning.
Hold Upward-Facing Dog for 2–3 breaths, then make your way back into Downward Dog.
5. Low Lunge
Your hips are generally in a flexed position to some degree when skiing, which can make the hip flexors tight. Low Lunge is a great way to stretch this area. From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands, bend your knee so it aligns over your ankle, and lower your left knee to the ground. Reach your arms up to the sky and straighten your elbows.
Hold for 3-5 breaths. Return to Down Dog and repeat on the other side.
6. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose stretches the glutes and outer hips — muscles that work hard to keep you carve your way down the mountain. From a low lunge, bring your hands to the mat then bring your front leg down to the mat with your shin perpendicular to your body extending your back leg away from your body. You can stay upright through your torso or relax your torso forward over your front leg for a deeper outer hip stretch.
Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Yoga will keep you strong on the slopes!
Yoga helps build flexibility in the leg muscles and hip joint, improves support to the upper body, all encouraging better balance and good turning habits. Crucial skills for any skier. As well, incorporating an Apres-ski yoga routine after you hit the slopes will help you recover faster and loosen tight muscles, if left unchecked, can lead to injuries.
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