Following an AMAZING yoga trip to Switzerland it was wonderful to work with The Oxford Ski Company on this fantastic blog about yoga and skiing!
Yoga and skiing can seem like total opposites; the exhilaration of shooting down the mountain slopes compared to the restorative and slow-paced practice of yoga… you may ask yourself what they have in common. However, when fused together, they complement each other, bringing balance and greatly improving your practice – on both your mat and the slopes.
To find out more, we spoke to renowned yoga teacher Niki Perry. Niki has been practising yoga since childhood and runs motivating and energising Power Yoga classes from the Cowshed, in Chichester. As a keen skier she is the perfect person to explain the benefits of yoga and how this can help you on the slopes as well as off them.
Why should skiers practice yoga?
When you incorporate a daily yoga practice into your skiing holiday, you give your body a chance to recover each day; strengthening and awakening muscles in the morning and restoratively stretching them in the evening. In particular, the core engagement and strengthening of the legs is a huge benefit for a skier – who doesn’t want a solid centre of gravity?! Many people find that when they partake in a regular yoga practice, they also have more energy and vitality for their time on the slopes.
Should you start practising pre-holiday?
As every annual skier knows, we use muscles on the slopes in ways or intensity that aren’t used that way during the rest of the year. So, unless we warm-up properly on a base of plenty of pre-ski training, stress, strain and at worse, injury can dominate.
What are the key poses for skiers?
Balance, concentration, flexibility and strength are the most important skills to develop to get down the mountain and yoga can help in all aspects of these.
Here are some I’d recommend doing and their benefits:
Extended hand to big toe pose / Triangle pose: This pose really puts a fire into the legs as well as engaging the core. The extension of the leg also gives a great hamstring and inner thigh stretch.
Tree pose: A classic pose, known for its rooting and grounding effects. The engagement of the legs is also a great warm up for your ski sessions.
Chair pose: This pose is one of our favourites; it engages the quads and you can lift onto the tiptoes for a calf release. You can also put a twist into this pose, which opens the chest and lower back.
Camel pose: This pose releases the psoas as well as opening the chest. This is particularly beneficial for opening the lungs in the high-altitude environment.
Warrior 1, 2 & 3: When practised correctly, the warrior poses work every muscle you’ve got. From your arms and shoulders, to your hips and glutes, and all the way down your legs. The perfect warm up for a skier!
Lunges: Low lunges, high lunges, crescent lunges…I love them all! They stretch the psoas, strengthen the legs and improve balance.
Downward facing dog: Downward facing dog is an old faithful; it’s restorative for the mind and body, as well as providing a gentle stretch down the spine. This is a great pose to hang out in.
How often should you practice during the trip and should you do different poses before/after skiing?
Every day in the morning before you head out with a strengthening and awakening practice, I’d recommend my 35 or 45 minute Vinyasa Flow and in the evening a more restorative stretch.
Is there anything else you recommend doing to help skiers through a busy week of skiing, socialising and après ski?
Raclette, fondue, morning croissants and not to forget the all important après beverages are all part of the skiing experience in my mind. I love them all, but try not to indulge every day. Skiing is such a great holiday all round, particularly as it comes at a time when we often spend more time indoors in the winter months, moving less and sitting more. Skiing satisfies our primal need for motion while reconnecting us with nature. You end your day feeling exhilarated. When you combine that feeling with yoga in the morning and evening you will only want to feed yourself with fabulous healthy food.
To get the most from your days on skis, practice yoga and stretch those muscles before and after you tackle the mountain. Remember, if you stay in top shape, you can ski for free in some resorts after the age of 70. Now, there’s something to look forward to.