As skiers and outdoor enthusiasts, we rely on our healthy and strong bodies to let us glide down hills, hike up mountains, jump in rivers, and carry heavy loads on our backs all in the name of fun. Yoga is one of the best exercises for skiers and is an essential part of keeping those bodies healthy and strong so you can continue to do the things you love.
As an avid skier and yoga teacher, I’ve learned that the best yoga poses for skiers are the ones that increase flexibility and mobility in the body in addition to creating better balance and proprioception. This means you can feel good and safe while you keep improving, learn new skills, and take chances without the fear of tweaking a knee or hurting your back (been there). So, I’ve rounded up 8 of my favorite yoga poses for skiers and yogis of all levels that you can do before and after you get out there for a rip.
Ready to get a little bendy? Here are the 8 best yoga poses for skiers.
Getting Started with Yoga for Skiing
Find a quiet space, preferably with a hard, flat surface that is tall enough to stretch your arms up and overhead without hitting the ceiling. Grab your yoga mat and yoga props, such as a yoga block or two, strap, and a blanket.
Hold each pose on both sides for a full five rounds of breath (round of breath = inhale/exhale). If you feel any pain, back off or come out of the pose immediately. It’s good to push yourself, but pain is never an option. Listen to your body and be mindful of what you feel.
Whether it’s cold or just a postural habit, hunching your shoulders while skiing will create tightness and possibly even pain in your neck. Stretching your neck and chest gently before and after skiing is a great way to alleviate tension and discomfort. It’s also super relaxing!
Here’s how: While seated (you can do this in the car, at the lodge, or at home), drop your right ear to your shoulder and take your right hand to your left ear. Use your top hand to gently tug up and lengthen the side of the neck as you press your ear slightly back against your hand. Repeat on the second side.
Downward Facing Dog
Downdog Facing Dog is a dynamic and juicy pose any day of the week, but when done after a long day on the mountain it can feel even more gratifying. It’s also one of the best yoga poses for skiers to practice regularly.
Do Downward Dog beforehand to open up your shoulders, stretch the spine and posterior chain of the body for more flexibility while skiing. Afterward, it’s a feel-good stretch that’ll relieve stiffness in your upper body and hamstrings. In this pose you want your back straight (not hunched), so bend your knees if you need to).
Downward Facing Dog Chin Stretch
Our feet bear most of the load and force while skiing—not to mention they’re stuck in ski boots the entire time, so a little foot rehab will do them good. Restore the elasticity to the muscles and tissues of your shins, ankles, and feet with this easy stretch. While in Downward Facing Dog, tuck the toes of your right foot underneath and press down into your left heel to stretch your calf. Hold for a few rounds of breath and switch sides.
From Downward Dog step your right foot forward in between your hands. Bend your knee to a ninety-degree angle and straighten your back leg as you squeeze them in towards each other. Bring your hands to your hips or extend both arms up and overhead to High Lunge.
This is one of the best yoga poses for skiers to effectively stretch your quads and hip flexors (two muscle groups that get tight while skiing) and strengthen your ankle, knee, and hip joints. Make sure to point your front knee forward to stabilize the patellar tendon, something that will do you well both on and off the snow. As a bonus, High Lunge increases balance and strength, making it one of the best exercises for skiers as well.
Side Angle Pose
If you want a pose that delivers a full-body stretch and tone, Side Angle Pose is it. Grab a block if you have one or a stack of books to provide extra support, especially if you’re really tight. From High Lunge, spin your back foot down and take your bottom hand to the block or the mat, then, press your feet down, squeeze your legs towards each other and lengthen your spine long in both directions. Stretch your top arm along your ear and start to turn your chest up towards the ceiling. If the front knee sickles in over the ankle, use your bottom arm to help realign the knee over the ankle or just widen it away from you. Repeat on the other side.
Low Lunge Twist
A twist adds some extra oomph to this quad stretch by increasing upper-body mobility and fresh blood flow to your vital organs. Do Low Lunge Twist pose before and after you ski to stay flexible and prevent injuries.
From downward-facing dog, step your right foot into a lunge and lower the back knee down. Either place your right hand to the mat or a block and take a deep breath in as you lengthen through the spine. Exhale and draw your navel in as you twist to the left. Squeeze your legs in towards each other and inhale your top arm up and alongside the ear for a juicy side-body stretch. Repeat on the other side.
We work our outer hip muscles a ton while skiing, so it’s a good idea to give ‘em a little love before and after your day to increase flexibility in the low back and hips and to ward off injuries. Outer hip stretches, like Pigeon Pose, are one of the best yoga poses for skiers for that very reason. If you’re super tight in this region, do pigeon pose more often to relieve that stiffness. It does get better, I promise!
From Downward Dog, place your right knee on the mat behind your right wrist. Flex your toes and press the outer edge of your foot down into the floor so to stabilize the knee joint. Hug your legs in towards each other and lower down onto your forearms or two blocks. Repeat on the other side.
Reclined Child’s Pose
After yoga, it’s always helpful to rest so your body can acclimate. Whether you are doing yoga before or after a day of skiing, finish your home practice with a few minutes in Reclined Child’s Pose. Lay down on your back and draw your knees into your chest with your legs about shoulder-width distance apart. Place your hands behind your kneeS for a little cushion and less pressure on the knees and hip joints. Softening into this pose allows you to feel your breath and calm the nervous system at the end of a long day.
Do you have any questions about yoga for skiers? What are your favorite ways to stretch and decompress after a day on the mountain? Leave us a comment below!