There is no science behind whether or not stretching immediately before skiing—or any athletic endeavor—reduces injury, just as there is no science behind whether push-ups helps your tennis game. But the fact is that the stronger and more flexible you are in general, you will perform at a higher level and be less prone to injury.
Which is why you should approach your flexibility routine with the same mindset as your fitness routine: Work on it every day.
Ashley Battersby, former pro-slopestyle skier turned yogi, knows first-hand how strength alone cannot prevent injury: While on the circuit slaying rails and training hard with the US Ski Team, she suffered four ACL tears. Since that time, she’s folded flexibility into her regime in a major way. Here are the four most important poses she recommends to every skier—and not just for the morning the lifts start spinning.
Often the more active you are, the tighter your hips can be. This pose is a powerful hip opener. Start in downward dog, with your feet hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart. Lift your right leg behind you toward the ceiling, then bring your right knee forward and place it behind your right wrist, positioning your ankle in front of your left hip (you can use your hands to help move your lower leg to be more parallel with the front of the mat for a more intense stretch). Straighten your left leg behind you, with your quad and the tops of all five toes on the floor. Lower the outside of your right buttock to the floor. Position your right heel so it is in front of your left hip, and try to maintain the same weight in both hips. Stretch your torso over your bent right leg as much you comfortably can, stretching your arms out on the floor in front of you. Repeat on the other side.
Firelog Pose or Double Pigeon
This pose requires a moderate amount of flexibility to begin with, as well as healthy knees. It’s a great stretch for the thighs, hips, and groin. Sit on the floor and place your left ankle on top of your right knee, and slide your right foot forward until it is directly below your left knee. Stop at any point if you feel pain in your knees. Press your hips down and stretch your spine straight, with the crown of your head reaching up toward the ceiling. Keeping your back flat and chest open, stretch your torso forward, holding onto your knees or placing your hands on the floor in front of you.
This pose is a deep hip and shoulder opener. From a seated position, slide your left foot under your right knee to the oustside of your right hip. Cross your right leg over your left, with your knees stacking over each other as much as possible. Bring your right foot as close as you can to the outside of your left hip. Sit evenly on your sitting bones, and move your feet with your hands to be roughly the same distance away from each hip. Stretch your right arm to the side, parallel to the floor, rotate it so your thumb points to the floor, and then bend your elbow and tuck your forearm behind your back. Keeping your shoulder back and down, work your forearm up your back until it is parallel to your spine. Stretch your left arm straight up, palm facing the back wall, and bend your elbow so your left fingers reach your right. If possible, hook fingers. Stay in this pose for one minute, and repeat on the other side.
This pose may look simple, but there’s more to it than you think. It builds back strength and stretches your hammies. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. If you’re not very flexible, sit on a folded up blanket to elevate your hips. Sit up straight, fire up your quads, and lean forward so your torso and legs are at 90 degrees. Press your palms into the floor alongside you, with your arms straight along your torso. Keep the crown of your head reaching toward the ceiling and your spine straight. Sit in this pose for one minute.
Developed by SKI magazine and Ashley Battersby, a professional skier who also is a certified yoga instructor, our self-paced online Yoga for Skiers class through AIM Adventure U will increase your flexibility and balance, strengthen your entire body, relieve sore muscles, and prevent injuries. It also will help you reduce daily stress, and boost your confidence on and off the hill. This all-access course focuses on both the mental and physical aspects of training that can benefit everyone on the mountain, from the expert veteran skier to someone just starting the sport. So join us here to make this the best ski season ever!