By Yoga Journal
Use this practice as a warm-up or cross-training sequence to lengthen and strengthen your body for skiing and snowshoeing.
As you head out into the snowy wonderland for winter endurance sports like skiing and snowshoeing, be sure to bring yoga with you. Yoga helps you develop the focus, breath awareness, and balance you need to stay present and healthy all winter. The repetitive, rhythmic movement of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing helps you develop dharana, single-pointed concentration. (Try using a mantra as you move.) The movement of your body coordinates with the movement of your breath, and the entire trek can become a meditation in motion.
Asana will help, too. The following poses lengthen and strengthen your body for better performance and enjoyment of winter sports. This sequence releases your upper body and builds stability in your lower body. It focuses on the glutes, which power your pushoff; the hip flexors, which initiate the next step; and the lower leg, which has to stay stable and engaged over uneven surfaces inside winter boots.
Two Ways to Use This Practice
1. HOLD Include each of the following poses as part of your home practice. To develop strength, hold each of one for several breaths at a time.
2. PULSE You can also practice the sequence dynamically as a warm-up before you head outdoors. In that case, cycle through several rounds for each pose, alternating sides where necessary.
Sidebending Mountain Pose
From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), inhale and lift your arms overhead. Exhale and lean to one side.
To hold, stay five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
To pulse, inhale to lift to center, exhale to lean to the other side.
Exhale and sit your hips down as you lift your arms to shoulder height or overhead (choose what feels best in your body) for Chair Pose. For more challenge, sink lower. Keep your knees and toes facing forward and extend your spine long, instead of arching too much.
To hold, stay 10 to 15 breaths.
To pulse, inhale to mountain pose, exhale to chair.
Revolved Chair Pose
From Chair Pose, exhale and twist to one side. For a sweeter twist, take a hand to the opposite knee and reach your other arm behind you. For a spicier twist, take your hands in prayer and hook your elbow across the opposite knee. Either way, aim to keep your knees in line, so the twist comes from the waist up.
To hold, stay five to 10 breaths.
To pulse, exhale to twist, inhale to center, and exhale the other direction.
Extended Leg + Arms Prep Pose
From Chair Pose, inhale and lift one leg. Exhale, stand tall, and straighten both legs, pushing your hands away from center for a bonus wrist stretch. Keep your shoulders over your hips, and keep your raised leg as high as you can with good form—this develops strength in the abs and hip flexors.
To hold, stay 5-10 breaths.
To pulse, exhale to standing, and inhale to Warrior III.
Next, swing your raised leg behind you and your arms alongside your ears as you lower your chest. For less work, lean just to a diagonal line; for more challenge, reach your arms, torso, and raised leg parallel to the floor.
To hold, stay five to 10 breaths.
To pulse, enter on an exhalation from Crane Pose and inhale back to Mountain Pose.
About Sage Rountree
Sage Rountree is the author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga and The Athlete's Guide to Recovery. She works extensively with runners, cyclists, NBA and NFL players, Olympians, and college athletes. Sage also teaches vinyasa flow and meditation in North Carolina, onYogaVibes, at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and at festivals and conferences around the country.