Improve Your Skiing Core with Yoga

One of the most important things an athlete can do with their workout routine is implementing cross training activity. Cross training is important for several reasons; primarily avoiding injuries, but cross training can also improve your overall performance. It’s been proven that a diverse, balanced workout makes the difference between an enjoyable activity and a chore. There are actually a lot of cross training activities like running, swimming and other strenuous sports but one that you may hear more frequently is Yoga.
Contrary to popular belief, Yoga is not about touching your toes or how many repetitions you can perform. There’s nothing competitive here-It’s about observing how your body feels and moves without pain. It’s about paying attention to breathing correctly and integrating that breath into your movement. Conscious Yoga doesn’t call for you to force or strain your body; it’s sympathetic and accepting of where your body is in the present.
Yoga and flexibility are synonymous when discussing the advantages of cross training with Yoga, as it increases the range of motion and lubrication in joints. In addition to stretching the muscles, it also stretches the ligaments, tendons and fascia, a protective sheath of connective tissue covering all muscles and muscle cells, while building in strength and balance as well. With increased flexibility, strength and balance comes core strength. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, because you’re counting on your deep abdominals to support and maintain each Yoga pose.
Specifically in skiing, a strong core helps take the pressure off the knees, which will likely bear too much weight if the gluteus, quads and back muscles are weak. You may have witnessed (and have probably done it yourself) a skier throwing their upper body in order to turn, while their lower body remains facing the opposite direction and it just looks painful. This skier is disconnected from their center, which along with their knees and hips should be the driving force for turning. In a Yoga class an instructor may say, “draw your navel into your spine”. This helps activate your abdominal muscles and brings awareness to your core as the body’s center and source of stability. Whether carving smooth, beautiful S-turns on a groomer or reacting quickly to unexpected terrain, a skier needs to have their center in order to stably maneuver the rest of the body with precision. With a stronger core, you have the potential to excel at your sport whether it is skiing or snowboarding.
The breath is an integral part of Yoga, but also of our lives-it’s something we do mindlessly, day in and day out. The deep breathing techniques taught in Yoga help to strengthen the heart and lungs. The goal of any aerobic program is to train the body to utilize oxygen more efficiently and Yoga teaches you to focus on breathing while you hold the poses. This attention to breath is calming; it dissolves stress and anxiety. I use yogic breathing on the ski hill when turning; exhaling into the turn and inhaling as I come out. Breath work can also transpire into your everyday life, in the dentist’s chair or when you find yourself stuck in traffic.
The benefits of Yoga are numerous, primarily for me is that Yoga creates body awareness. This is the simple practice of being conscious of your body and its present physical state. A sport like skiing makes many demands on our coordination skills that body awareness can help meet. Body awareness enables you to take pre-emptive corrective action. It has actually aided me in preventing injuries during major falls while skiing.
Your body will grow stronger, more toned, and more flexible as you progress with your Yoga practice. Yoga can also help alleviate muscle soreness and promotes faster recovery from a long day on the mountain. Instead of feeling weary or exhausted after practicing Yoga, a person feels relaxed and energetic at the same time.
Here are three poses I believe are a good start to appreciating the many benefits of yoga in your cross training:
Downward Facing Dog Pose: Position yourself on floor on all fours with your knees under your hips and the hands a little in front of the shoulders. Spread your fingers out with the middle and index fingers pointing straight forward. Curl the toes under and push back raising the hips and straightening the legs. Try to avoid locking up your knees and elbows. Ears should be positioned between your biceps, and your head in line with the upper body. Shift the shoulder blades backward, away from the ear and towards the hips. You should make an upside down “V” with your body. Keep the tail bone high and sink the heels towards the floor. If the heels do not touch the floor do not try to walk your feet in to get the heels on the floor, it will come with time. Hold yourself in this position for 1 to 3 minutes. Exhale and bend your knees lower to the floor, uncurl your toes and rest in the Child’s Pose by shifting your buttocks back to your feet, your belly on your thighs and your forehead to the floor. This pose stretches the back, opens the chest, and builds upper body strength. This posture stimulates the brain and nervous system, improving memory, concentration, hearing and eyesight. This pose can also be therapeutic for back pain.Down Dog_8516
Plank Pose: Starting in Downward Facing Dog. Inhale and move your torso forward until your shoulders are directly over your wrists and your torso is in a straight line from your heels to the crown of your head. Press firmly through your arms into the floor to keep your chest from sinking towards the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and activate your abdominals. Also, try to resist sinking the hips towards the floor. Remember not to hold your breath, but keep the breath smooth and deep while holding the posture. Stay from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Press back to Downward Facing Dog and then rest in Child’s Pose. Plank Pose can be very beneficial for core and shoulder strength. Plank_8526
Warrior II: Stand your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Lift your arms parallel to the floor with palms facing down. Turn your left foot in slightly to a 45 degree angle and your right foot out to a 90 degree angle. Align the right heel with the left heel. Activate the muscles in your thighs. Exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle and try to bring your right thigh parallel to the floor. Keeping your left knee straight and anchor back into the left leg so you have equal energy in both legs. Reach strongly through both of your arms and all your fingers. Keep your torso over the hips and try not to lean forward with the right arm. Press the tailbone slightly toward the floor and keep your shoulders on your back. Turn the head to the right and look beyond your right fingers. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left. Warrior II strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles while stretching the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders, and can be therapeutic for sciatica pain.Warrior_8535

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