5 Essential Yoga Poses To Help Winter Athletes Recover
In an ideal world, we would be able to click our fingers and be transported to the snowy mountains whenever we wished so that we could maintain the strength and fitness that skiing and other winter sports require. But until that is possible, here are five yoga poses that can be practiced before and after your session on the mountain to help improve your flexibility, strengthen, and ability to focus.
1. Reclining Big Toe Pose
Our hamstrings are an area that tends to tighten up and over time, this can limit your freedom of movement, potentially resulting in lower back pain and knee injuries.
This pose is a simple way to stretch this muscle. Lie on your back with both legs straight and feet flexed so your toes are pointing upwards. Raise one leg and hold onto the back of your thigh or your big toe. You want it to be relaxing so if you find that your leg starts shaking, just ease of slightly so that you can find a softness in the pose, maybe even bend your raised knee slightly if your hamstrings are particularly tight. Stay in this position for one to three minutes per leg.
2. Low Lunge
It is common for skiers to have very tight psoas muscles. Over time, this can cause problems for the lower back. Practicing a low lunge before and after you exercise is a perfect way to stretch this muscle.
Make sure that your front bent knee is directly above the ankle and that your knee is tracking over the foot. You can simply place both hands on your front knee or clasp your hands behind you. In either option, make sure that you draw your shoulder blades toward one another to open your chest. Hold this pose for five deep breaths on each side, breathing in and out through your nose.
Cobra pose is a perfect way to stretch the abdominals, and it’s also a great way to open up the chest to help improve posture.
Simply lie on your stomach with your forearms on the ground. Ensure that your elbows are directly beneath your shoulders. Place both hands underneath your shoulders; draw the shoulder blades toward one another to broaden your chest as you push the floor away and straighten your arms. Make sure that your neck is long. Practice this pose before and after you exercise and hold for five deep breaths in and out through your nose.
4. Broken Toe
Cramping your feet up in boots often results in sore feet and ankles. Broken toe pose (despite the name) is a great way to stretch your feet and ankles as well as the sole of your foot.
Begin by sitting on your heels with the feet together. Tuck the toes under and try to be on the balls of the feet, not the tips of your toes. Reach down and tuck the little toes under. If the pose becomes too challenging you can place your hands on the floor in front of you and lean some of your weight forward on them to relieve some of the pressure on the feet and toes. Close your eyes and breath in and out through your nose, trying to relax as you stay here for 30 to 60 seconds.
5. Downward-Facing Dog
This is a rejuvenating stretch that strengthens the wrists, arms, and shoulders. If you let your ankles drop toward the floor, it also stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles.
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Stretch your arms and relax the upper back between the shoulder blades. Keeping your knees bent, exhale and raise your knees and lift your hips high. Your aim here is to have your arms and back form one straight line. If you have the flexibility in your hamstring muscles, straighten your legs and let your heels drop down toward the floor while maintaining the length in your spine. If you notice your spine start to curve as you straighten your legs, bend your knees enough so that you can keep the spine straight. Let your head hang down and your neck relax. As with the other poses, notice your breath. See if you can make your inhalation and exhalation the same length as you hold the pose for five deep breaths.
Do these five poses before you work out to prepare your muscles for the challenges of the day. After your workout, repeat them in the opposite order and end with a few minutes of relaxation lying on your back. Notice for both scenarios you want to go gently, looking to relax and ease into the stretches rather than going as far as you can; this will help minimize your soreness and leave your ready for more skiing!
Cover photo courtesy of iStock