With many of you still planning to head for the slopes before Easter, I thought I’d share some of my favourite yoga poses for an evening practise after a day skiing. Yoga poses that are often recommended for skiers include variations of Chair, Warrior and Lunge poses – these are great in the run up to your ski holiday, as they will help to build strength, but they are the last thing your body needs after a hard day’s skiing! Instead you need poses that rebalance, alleviate tension and soothe a tired body. Sun Salutations are a great place to start, as the continuous alternation between flexion and extension keeps the spine mobile as well as stretching both the front and back body. Furthermore, holding Down Dog offers a great stretch to both the calves and hamstrings – both of which can feel “hammered” after a day in ski boots! But, in addition there are a few more poses that I like to include.
Twisting poses can help to stretch out the stabilising muscles of the torso, which often get tight after a day skiing, especially if you’ve been pounding moguls or skiing back-country crud! My favourite is the seated twist, Marichyasana C (where one knee is turned slightly inwards) as this also provides a safe and effective stretch for the muscles of the buttocks and external hip rotators.
The largest adductor muscle, the Magnus, runs down the inside of each thigh and plays a key role in stabilising your legs whilst skiing, especially if you are putting in a lot of turns in deep, heavy snow. Sitting upright in Baddha Konasana stretches both the Magnus and the smaller adductor, the Pectineus. I have included Baddha Konasana in virtually every class I’ve taught since becoming a yoga teacher, partly because a few years ago I found it incredible difficult. Regular practise has massively increased my range of movement and I find that spending a few minutes in this pose after skiing helps to maintain this hard-won hip openness.
I’ve been skiing since I was four years old and I totally blame it for having sturdy quad muscles! These powerful muscles provide crucial force for skiers and control both flexion at the hip and extension of the knees. Years ago I worked a ski season and got used to seeing clients almost unable to walk downstairs after a few days on the piste; they had no idea how much battering they’d given their poor quads – normally more used to life tucked neatly under office desks! Back then we “saisonnaires” dubbed this “real job syndrome”! These days I like to stretch my quads one leg at a time. Bending a foot back to the outer thigh and pressing the knees together, as in Trianga Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana, works well for me and you can still watch TV, keeping an eye on the snow reports! If you find this puts too much strain on your knees then a supported bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) would be another option. Place a firm yoga block beneath your tailbone (saves the gluteus muscles having to work!) and take the rest of your weight on your shoulders, back of your head and evenly distributed through both feet.
The rest of the poses I’ve chosen mainly target the hamstrings. Of course a simple option is to just hang over your legs in Utanasana whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil. But my more targeted choices are Trikonasana which not only stretches the hamstrings but also catches the side abdominal muscles as well as the calf muscles. Next I’ll move into the wide-straddle forward fold, Prasarita Padottanasana which bilaterally stretches the backs of the legs. And then, my final pose before heading for a hot shower is Supta Padanghustasana; with the weight on your back you can gradually increase the stretch with each exhalation.
You can fit in all of these “leg-saving” poses in less than 20 minutes, so don’t say you haven’t got time!