Tips for a home practice by Agatha Wasilewska
A proficient yogi and a shredder have a lot in common. Both disciplines demand focus, honing of the ever-wandering mind, precise attention to the ongoing changes of the body, and an adventurous spirit.
Physically, yoga builds strength and flexibility in the body. The asanas, when structured to work on specific parts of the body that are used in snow, can strengthen, limber and loosen the body to complement the actions required to ride hard. Mentally, the attention to the breath in yoga focuses the mind. This is truly where yoga and snowboarding come together. Many riders talk about the meditative quality of shredding through the woods, cutting deep turns down the slope, or flying through the air off a sick kicker. Yoga and basic meditation can deepen the experience of riding, just as snowboarding can enrich your yoga practice with new elements.
Yoga is beneficial for a snowboarder since both require centering, balance and proper breathing. Snowboarding primarily utilize muscles in the lower body, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus. Yoga isometrically contracts muscles, overloading them to improve strength, while also increasing their range of motion and improving joint and muscle flexibility. Tightness in the hamstrings, back and hip flexors is a very common imbalance, which can lead to excessive stress and potential injury to the lower back.
Yoga also increases strength in the core muscles, which provide support in the event of falls, and support the spine through all of the bending, twisting and stabilizing required for riding.
The following exercises represent a series of yoga postures that will improve your balance and flexibility when integrated into your daily practice and used as a warm-up before skiing or snowboarding, or afterwards as a cool down.
As you attempt these postures remember the following:
• MOVE into and out of the postures slowly and mindfully.
• BREATHE slowly and deeply through the nose.
• BE mindful of physical limitations. Muscles should only be stretched to comfortable limits to avoid injury.
What You Need:
A yoga or exercise mat, comfortable clothing, bare feet and props (blocks, blankets) are recommended when practicing yoga.
Pose #1: Mountain Pose
Start: Stand up tall with your abdominal muscles lightly contracted and feet shoulder width apart.
• Lift up all your toes and root your feet and calves into the floor.
• Engage your quadriceps, relax your shoulders and arms at your sides and point your tailbone
toward the ground.
• Exhale and lengthen from the feet up to the crown of the head. Take several deep breaths through the nose.
Benefits: This is a good foundation or starting pose, where you are rooted, centered and balanced before beginning an activity. Feet are hip-width apart when snowboarding, creating a stable base for the body.
Pose #2: Chair Pose
Start: In Mountain Pose
• Take a deep breath through the nose and exhale as you sit back, bend your knees and drop the tailbone back. Lift your chest and reach your arms forward and up alongside ears.
• Press into the feet, extend through the hips and knees, then rise back up to Mountain Pose.
• Repeat 10 – 15 times. On the last chair, remain “seated” for at least six deep breaths.
Benefits: Keeps the ankles, hips and shoulders in alignment with the knees over the toes, which, when snowboarding, is the correct centered and balanced position. Engages core muscles in your abdomen and spine.
Pose # 3 Tree Pose
Start: In Mountain pose
• Shift weight onto your left foot, while keeping the inner foot firmly on the floor and bending right knee.
• Reach with your right hand and clasp your right ankle, draw the foot upward and place the sole of the foot inside the inner left thigh.
• Rest hands on each side of pelvis. Maintain pelvis in neutral position, lengthen your tailbone and press outward with right foot against inner thigh. Press hands together out in front of chest and gaze at
a fixed point on the floor.
• Hold for 30 seconds to one minute before stepping back into Mountain Pose.
Benefits: Strengthens quadriceps, calves, ankles and spine, while stretching hip flexors, inner thighs, chest and shoulders. One-legged poses improve balance and promote mobility in the hip and knee, which are important when making turns when snowboarding.
Pose #4: Downward Facing Dog
Start: On hands and knees
• Start with knees directly below hips, hands slightly forward of the shoulders, with both your knees and hands shoulder-width apart.
• Tuck toes under and lift knees from the floor. At first, keep your knees slightly bent and heels off the floor.
• Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of pelvis, press it gently toward the pubis and lift the sit bones toward the ceiling.
• Exhale, push your thighs back and press heels toward the floor. Straighten knees without locking them.
• Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Keep the head in alignment with spine and upper arms.
• Hold and breathe deeply for a minimum of six breaths.
Benefits: Improves flexibility of shoulders, hamstrings and calves. This pose strengthens the upper body, core muscles and legs, which are all used when skiing and snowboarding.
Pose #5: Forward Kneeling Lunge
Start: In Downward Facing Dog
• Contract lower abdominals, lift and place your right foot forward just inside of right wrist. If needed, take several “steps” forward with your right foot or reach back and draw it forward with the right hand.
• Hang your fingertips to the floor on either side of right foot and inhale deeply. Lift your chest and lengthen your spine. Exhale, “soften” through the hips and draw them forward. Front knee should be aligned over heel.
• For a more advanced exercise, place your hands onto front thigh or extend arms straight up alongside ears, then lift and extend through the spine.
• Hold for six to eight breaths and repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Improves flexibility of hip flexors, which improves posture and lower back health and stability.
Also improves flexibility of calf muscles, a benefit to snowboarders.
Pose #6: Seated Hip & Spine Twist
Start: Seated, legs extended out
• Bend your right leg and turn your knee out to the side.
• Bend your left knee and place that foot flat on floor on the outside of your right leg. Ankle should be touching the right thigh. Inhale and sit up tall.
• Exhale, rotate your trunk and hug your left knee with your right arm. Place your left hand behind your back. Breathe, and keep your chest lifted and open. Your head should gently follow the path of the back shoulder.
• Hold for six to eight breaths, and then follow your next exhalation to the center. Uncross legs and reposition, bending the left leg first for a stretch of the opposite side.
Benefits: Improves spinal mobility and flexibility of gluteus and outer thigh muscles, which may help combat soreness in these areas after a long day on the slopes.
Pose #7: Reclining Bound Ankle
Start: On the back
• Place the soles of your feet together, pull them towards your groin and let your knees fall apart.
• Open your arms out to the sides at a 45-degree angle to the body, palms up. Relax your knees towards the ground. If your lower spine needs support, place your hands underneath your hips.
• Hold for six to eight deep breaths.
Benefits: Improves flexibility of inner thigh muscles. Shortened inner thigh muscles can strain the knee joint by limiting range of motion in the leg, which may cause an injury to the area.
BASIC WORKOUT STUFF TO ADD TO YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
Snowboarding fitness doesn’t have to be difficult or require a gym membership. These exercises will help your overall fitness for snowboarding and you can do all of them at home.
The lunge is a great fitness exercise for strong snowboarding legs. While standing, take a large step forward and lower down until your back knee almost hits the ground. Keep both knees at 90 degree angles. Push up and step forward, then continue on with the other leg.
Here’s a thigh/quad burner: sit against a wall as if there was a chair underneath you. With your knees at 90 degree angles and your ankles directly under your knees, hold for a 30 to 60 second count.
This one helps you withstand those nasty toeside traverses on a snowboard. Stand on a stair, facing up the staircase. With your heels over the edge of the step, slowly push up onto the tips of your toes. Lower back down and repeat. To make it harder, put on a backpack with something heavy inside.
Pushups help build your upper body and abdominal fitness for snowboarding. You can do them on your knees at first and then on your toes as you get stronger. Your hands should be a little bit wider than your shoulders. Lower your body down slowly and back up, keeping your body straight. Keep elbows and upper arms hugging into the midline of the body and use the core strength of you abdomen to lower down slowly and rise slowly.
Abdominal (stomach) muscles are an important part of your stability strength for snowboarding fitness. Crunches¬ are easy to do at home. With your back and feet on the floor, knees bent, curl up as you tighten your stomach muscles then lower back down. Try to keep your muscles engaged the entire time.
Snowboarding uses ankle and feet muscles for steering and balance. The “ankle alphabet” exercise is a great way to strengthen your ankles. Just sit on the couch (sounds great so far) and raise one foot off the ground. Point your toes and motion or “write” the letter “A” in the air. Then “B”, “C”, you get the drift.