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Ski Fit 4: Tone Your Hips & Legs with Yoga

With this series you’ll tone your glutes and quads while simultaneously opening your hips; flexible hip muscles are key to maintaining body alignment while skiing.

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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 back to the second half of a six week series designed to keep 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.

SKI SEASON STRENGTHENERS: HIPS & LEGS
I had a yoga teacher once that called the hips the “attic of the body”; there’s all kinds of dusty old stuff in there that needs to be cleaned out. Our hips build up a lot of tension from so much time in a seated position, and this tension results in reduced flexibility. Opening your hips up and strengthening the surrounding muscles, including the upper legs, gives you a solid extension of your core. With this series you’ll tone your glutes and quads while simultaneously opening your hips; flexible hip muscles are key to maintaining body alignment while skiing.

Try these yoga moves to increase your back’s strength and flexibility during ski season; aim for 3-4 times a week all winter.

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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.

Clothing provided by athleta.com.

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Stand with your feet slightly apart and fold forward. Take your left hand to the floor, coming onto fingertips or placing a yoga block (or a big book) under your hand if it doesn’t reach the floor. Use your right index and middle fingers to securely grab your right big toe; using your left hand for balance, lift your right leg straight out to the side, as high as possible. (This really isolates the outer hip muscles, so don’t worry if you can’t lift your leg up very high.) Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

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(do this if you cannot take your toe in version 1).

Stand with your feet slightly apart and fold forward. Take your left hand to the floor, coming onto fingertips or placing a yoga block (or a big book) under your hand if it doesn’t reach the floor. Take your right hand to your hip; using your left hand for balance, lift your right leg straight out to the side, as high as possible. Keep your left foot flexed. (This really isolates the outer hip muscles, so don’t worry if you can’t lift your leg up very high.) Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

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Come into a push-up position with your shoulders lining up directly over your wrists. Keep your right leg straight as you bring the left leg under you and out to the side, with the foot flexed and the leg as straight as possible. Allow your right hip to drop down until you feel the stretch. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

Option (not pictured): you can allow your bottom hip to drop down to the floor as you come onto your elbows. Hold for 10-15 breaths on each side.

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Stand with your feet wide apart, toes turned out slightly, hands in prayer position at your heart center. Lower your hips down as far as they will go (as your hips open more, you will be able to lower them more). Keep your heels reaching for the floor.

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Engage your quad and glute muscles to lift your hips and upper body as you reach your arms overhead on an inhale; return to the low squat position on your exhale. Repeat this sequence 10 times with 10 deep breaths.

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Stand with your feet together, and step your left foot way back; stay on the ball of your left foot while keeping the leg as straight as possible. Push back through your left heel to help maintain a straight and energized leg. Take your arms overhead, reaching up through your fingertips. Use an inhale to move into position 2.

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From position 1, straighten your front leg on an inhale. Use your exhale to move back into position one by bending your front leg and lunging deeply. Make sure you have a wide enough stance; your knee should track right over your ankle when bent. Repeat 10 times, with 10 deep breaths, on each side.

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For less intensity, you can take your hands to your hips for this sequence.

______________________________________

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.

Clothing provided by athleta.com.