Ski Fit 2: Work Your Core Through Yoga
Use the Plank, Sunken Boat, and Eagle Crunches to focus on your core and strengthen your abs.
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What do yoga and skiing have in common? The need for balance, flexibility and focus.
Yoga helps cultivate these qualities, so it follows that practicing yoga can help improve ski technique. Let’s face it – we love skiing for its adrenaline rush. But the other side of this coin is the potential for injury. Think of yoga as insurance against injury and one of the best ways to improve your skills on the slopes. It does both by addressing your body’s imbalances and fostering strength and flexibility. Yoga also encourages a focus on the breath. By being able to concentrate on your breathing, transitioning your movements with grace, and cultivating an awareness of body balance and alignment, any level of skier will get more out of their time on the mountain and be less injury-prone.
Welcome to a six week series designed to get your body ski-worthy so you can hit the mountain with confidence. These mini yoga-practices will target body parts that are critical to good form and technique, and when practiced together will stretch and strengthen these key areas in anticipation of the start of ski season.
In both yoga and skiing core strength is key. A strong, stable core allows us to control our movements with more precision. In skiing, a strong core will help take pressure off the knees, which typically end up bearing too much weight if the glutes, quads and back muscles are weak. We’ve all seen this happen (and have probably done it once or twice too): a skier jerking her upper body in order to turn, while her lower body remains facing the opposite direction – ouch. This person is disconnected from her center, which along with her knees and hips, should be in the driver’s seat for a turn. In yoga class an often-heard refrain is “draw your navel in towards your spine.” This helps cultivate an awareness of our core as the body’s center and source of stability. A skier needs to get her core under control in order to be stable and direct other body parts’ movements with precision, whether carving smooth S-turns on a groomer or reacting quickly to unexpected terrain.
Try these core strengthening yoga moves to connect to your body’s center during ski season; aim for 3-4 times a week all winter.
Stand tall with your feet and knees together. Bend your knees deeply and bring your palms together at your heart center. On an exhale, turn to your right and hook your bottom elbow on the outside of your right knee. Try not to let one knee come in front of the other, or let your hands move up towards your armpit. Hold for 5 deep breaths, moving deeper into your twist on every exhale. Repeat on the other side.
Come into a push-up position with your shoulders lined up directly over your wrists. Bend your right knee and pull it in as close to your chest as possible, while rounding your back. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Come into a push-up position with your shoulders lined up directly over your wrists. Bend your right knee and bring it as close to your right elbow as possible. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Sit up tall and lift your legs off the floor about 45 degrees. Take your arms straight out in front of you, keeping your legs straight and together. Pull your navel in towards your spine to stabilize the lower back. Take a deep inhale and move to…
On your exhale lower your arms and legs down to hover a few inches off the floor. Use your next inhale to lift everything back up to position 1. Repeat 10 times.
If it’s too challenging to have your legs straight, you can bend your knees to bring your shins parallel to the floor (this takes pressure off the lower back as well).
Lie on your back and cross the right arm under the left, bringing your hands together. Cross your right leg over your left, squeezing your thighs together. See if you can hook your right foot under your left calf. Take a deep inhale and move to…
On your exhale lift up to bring your elbows and knees together. Use your next inhale to return to position 1. Repeat 10 times, and then switch sides.
Margaret Burns Vap is a yoga instructor/entrepreneur, and the founder of Big Sky Yoga Retreats, offering yoga and outdoor fitness getaways in Big Sky & Bozeman, Montana.
Visit bigskyyogaretreats.com for Winter 2009 yoga and skiing retreat dates.
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