Yoga for Skiers! Lengthen and Strengthen thigh muscles!

Calling all Skiers (and snowboarders!)...Have you had your first run down the mountain yet?  Sore?    No worries!  We've got you covered. Stay tuned for a series of blogs for Winter Warriors (you know who you are!).  Find ways to prep your body, mind and spirit for the slopes as well as care for those sore post-ski muscles.


  • Be sure to consult a physician before trying a new exercise program. 
  • Remember, the golden rule of yoga is, “If it hurts, don’t do it!”. 
  • Be sure to warm/loosen the body before stretching...Sun Salutations and/or joint rotations make yoga postures easier

 

Lengthen and Strengthen Those Thigh Muscles!


Why?

  • Knee joints take a lot of strain when skiing, especially as they absorb terrain on a downhill run
  • If quads are weak, the knees take the pressure and the knee joints can become fatigued
  • If hamstrings or inner thigh muscles are short or tight, this can strain the knee joint and limit range of motion, making the knee susceptible to injury
  • Very important to lengthen and strengthen all sides of the upper leg--hamstrings, quads, inner and outer thighs--so that the knee joint can be properly supported
Pose 1:
  •  Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend)
    • Benefits for skiers:
      •  Strengthens and stretches the spinal muscles
      • Lengthens and stretches the hamstrings and calves
      • Relaxes and rejuvenates the body after a long day on the slopes
    •  How To:
      • Stand tall with feet close together, hands on hips
      •  Firm the front thighs
      •  Take a deep inhale, lift the chest and begin to fold forward at the hips, keeping the spine long
      • If you feel pain in the back, bend the knees slightly and lift the sitting bones toward the sky
      • Bring the hands to a chair, to blocks or to the floor
      • To exit the posture, place the hands on the hips. Squeeze the shoulder blades and elbows together behind you. Lift the front ribcage, take a deep breath in, coming up with a long spine.
*Please note:  The pictures below represent different levels of the same posture.  Find your sweet spot--choose the posture that makes you feel like you're working and stretching, but without any pain or forcing.
                      


Pose 2:

  • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)
    • Benefits for Skiers:
      • Strengthens the low body, particularly the thighs
      • Stretches the hip flexors
      •  Stabilizes hips and knees
      • Builds endurance and balance
      • Improves flexibility of the spine
    • How To:
      • Stand tall on both feet.  Inhale deeply and on the exhale, step the right foot as far back as you can.  Press the heel down and turn the right foot out about 45 degrees.  
      • Press into the outside edge of the right foot, keeping the arch active.
      • Inhale, and lift the arms overhead, shoulder width apart, palms face inward.
      • Exhale, bend the left knee as deeply as you can, striving for 90 degrees.  Keep the left knee tracking the middle toes and be sure that the left knee does not go beyond the left ankle.  Stack the knee on top of the ankle.
      • Hips square to the front. Shoulder blades slide down the back.
      • Pull the low belly in and up to support your spine.
      • Keep the right heel down, still pressing into the outer edge of the foot.  
      • Breathe deeply and hold the posture for as long as is comfortably challenging.
      • To exit, take a deep inhale and on the exhale, step the right foot forward.
      • Repeat on the other side.



Pose 3:  
  • Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
    •  Benefits for Skiers:
      • Opens and strengthens the hips, helping skiers to make sharper lines/turns and improves the support system that keeps the upper body stable
      • Builds muscular strength and endurance in the legs
      • Strengthens the feet and the ankles
      • Tones the abdomen
    • How To:
      • Stretch arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor.
      • Step feet as wide apart as you comfortably can.
      • Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and turn your left foot in slightly.  If you drew a line from your right heel to your back foot, it would intersect at the left arch.
      •  Hips and shoulders are in the frontal plane.
      • Tailbone heads down towards the floor and both thighbones roll open from the center.
      • Ribcage is centered over the hips and the crown of the head lifts toward the sky.
      • Take a deep inhale and on the exhale, bend the right knee.
      • The right knee tracks toward the middle toes (don’t let the knee roll inward) and does not go past the right ankle.
      • Turn the head to look out over the right fingertips.
      • Breathe!
      • Repeat on the other side



Pose 4:

  • Utkatasana (Chair Pose or Fierce Pose)
    • Benefits for skiers:
      • Warms the quadriceps
      • Builds strength and endurance in the hips and thighs
      •  Increases balance
    • How To:
      • Stand tall with hands on hips and feet about hip width distance apart.  Feet parallel to each other and legs parallel to each other.
      • Take a deep inhale and on the exhale, bend at the hips and knees.  Reach the tailbone back and try to keep your hips aligned behind the heels.  When you look down, you should be able to see your toes.  If not, and your knees are covering your toes, pull your knees and hips back.
      • Keep the spine long, and if comfortable, reach the arms forward, keeping them parallel to each other.  If that feels o-kay and you’d like to go deeper, reach both arms up to the sky drawing the shoulders down and keeping the tailbone heading toward the floor as much as possible.
      • To exit the posture, inhale and straighten the hips and legs.  Exhale to lower the arms.

    


Pose 5:  

  •  Virasana (Hero’s Pose)
    • Benefits for skiers:
      • Good post-ski posture to stretch the front of the thighs, knees, and ankles
      • Strengthens arches and improves circulation in the feet
      • Can help alleviate arthritis pain in the feet and ankles
    • How To:
      • Spread a thinly folded blanket on the floor for padding.  Have a yoga block, a bolster, or a rolled blanket nearby.
      • Kneel with the thighs perpendicular to the floor and inner knees touching.
      • Move your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips
      • Bring a yoga block, a bolster, or a rolled blanket between the legs.
      • Press the top of each foot evenly into the floor.
      •  Take a deep inhale and then as you exhale, lean the body slightly forward and begin to sink the hips down toward the heels.  As you do this, place your hands on your calves, and manually rotate the calves down and away from your body in order to relax the knees.
      • Now sit down on the block/blanket/bolster between your legs.  (If you need a deeper stretch, remove the block/blanket/bolster and take the sitting bones directly to the floor between the ankles.)
      • Be sure the sitting bones are evenly supported.
      • The knees stay together and the inner heels are placed outside of the hips.  
      • Lengthen the crown of the head toward the sky and slide the shoulder blades down the back. Reach the tailbone towards the floor.  
      • Rest the hands on the tops of the thighs and breathe.
      • To exit, place your hands on the floor beside the hips.  Lean to one side and extend the opposite leg.  Then lean to the other side and extend the other leg, sitting with both legs out in front.  Roll the ankles and then “windshield wiper” the feet side to side to loosen the hips.
Prep:  Block                  
    Prep:  Block (purple)                 Prep:  Moving the calf muscles

          
Block Support               Sitting bones on floor


Pose 6:  

  • Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana (Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
    • Benefits for skiers:  
      •  Restorative posture, great for calming and rejuvenating the body and mind after a day of skiing.
      • Relieves hip tightness from forward motion and turning 
      • Improves flexibility of inner thigh muscles, groins and knees which helps deter knee injuries.
      • Flexible hips promote good balance and turning habits
      • Increases general circulation by stretching the major arteries in the groin, legs, and thighs
    • How To:
      • Grab 2-6 thick blankets (or yoga blocks)
      • Sit on the ground with the soles of your feet together.  
      • Place a stack of blankets behind you, with the short end against your buttocks/sacrum.
      • Place a blanket or two underneath each of your outer thighs so that the blankets can support your thighs and take the pressure off the groins and hips
      • Inhale deeply, exhale and recline (using your arms to support you), resting on the set of blankets behind you.
      •  Tilt the pelvis toward the heels to create length in the lower spine. Be sure soles of the feet are still together.  
      •  Bring your arms out to the sides, palms up (if the arms are uncomfortable, you can place blankets under the arms to support them as well).  Rest, relax, and breathe. Stay here for as long as is comfortable.
      •  To exit the posture, use your hands to help bring your knees together, roll to one side, then inhale and use your hands to press up  into a seated position.
                                     

Well, hopefully that's enough to get you started!  Stay tuned for core strengtheners and back relaxers for skiers!

 
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