This series of postures can be done with your skis on, when you want or need the burst of physical energy and mental calm that comes from releasing the tension in tired muscles. You can do these postures individually or in any order. This particular sequence, in this order, flows from one pose to the next – once you get to the one legged postures try them all on one leg then switch to the other leg. In all the postures – make sure you can breathe! Feel free to ask questions if anything doesn’t make sense. With thanks to my lovely model Lauren O’Reilly, Training Manager for Loon Mountain SnowSports.
This standing back bend is enhanced by ski boots – the boots anchor you and the slight forward pitch of the boot helps arc the whole front side of the body into a slight back bend. Plant your poles in the snow in front of you.
(feet hip to shoulder width apart, tailbone tucked – yet try not to squeeze the gluts too much! shoulders roll back as the elbows squeeze slightly together, without constricting the upper back. belly hugs in as the sternum lifts up. care not to collapse in the neck or lower back. the more you bend the knees the deeper the back bend. go slowly at first, and not too far – remember you have to be able to come out of it! the coming out is often where the lower back tweaks. both shoulders at the same time, head comes up last)
Lean forward into your poles and come into a standing downward dog variation to stretch the back side of the body. The slide of the skis can help you play with where the stretch hits you most. The forward pitch of the boots will prevent your legs from straightening, so use the bend of your knees to get deep into your back.
(belly hugs in, straight back, thighs slightly engaged. feet hip to shoulder width apart. belly strength can be pulling the hips away from the shoulders. bend your knees more to straighten the back if your legs and back are tight and the back rounds in this posture. if you are more flexible and tend to collapse into the belly and shoulders, make sure your ribcage hugs in to to keep the back level. shoulders move away from the head and neck to increase the width of the upper back, shoulder blades flat against the back ribcage)
From here it can be nice to hinge forward at the ball and socket of your hip joint, with bent knees and a straight back, into a forward bend. These photos are without skis, but you can see what I mean.
(feet hip or shoulder width apart, equal weight on both feet. knees stay bent with the forward pitch of the boot. belly hugs in, thighs engaged, back straight. chin tucked only so much as to take a hinge out of the neck and make the neck a straight extension of the spine. shoulder blades engage into the back and away from head and neck)
A little ski ballet anyone? This one helps with balance and stretches the legs. Having skis on makes it slightly more challenging and even more useful for ankle positioning and balance when you are skiing.
(in all balance poses, finding a point of focus for the eyes will help your body stay steady. belly hugs in to hold the center as you extend out into both legs, hands and crown of your head. pressing into the standing leg to get the equal and opposite lifting through the rest of the body. equally balanced weight over the standing foot – it can help to roll weight into the big toe side of the foot. She has her hands out to the side although you could take them straight back alongside the body or out in front of you with palms pressed together – just be mindful of were you stick your poles! taking hands to the standing knee can help if it is hard on your standing leg, and planting the poles like in the downward dog variation can aid balance. looking down so the neck is a straight extension of the spine)
This one you may already do. Helps release the calves and hamstrings. Keep your back straight – choose a bent leg over a bent back. The skis assist balance and deepen the stretch in this posture. To go even further you can take one hand to the ski and flex it gently back towards your body, hinging forward at the hip socket if you can keep your back straight.
(back straight, hips over standing heel, balanced weight across standing foot. belly hugs in, thighs engage without clenching. the sensation of the thighs lifting the kneecaps and the arches of the feet. pressing out into the lifted heel and pulling back towards the body with the toes)
This one is a little hard to balance and maneuver, so leave it out if its too much. It may help to plant your poles in front of you at arms length and use them to help balance. You can do it sitting on the gondola or in the lodge with or without your boots on if that works better. Trying it on skis helps strengthen the ankle and assists in balance for actual skiing. It gets deep into the hip socket of the bent leg to release your hips, back and legs, especially the ever difficult IT band. The second and third photo show it done without skis for clarity.
(find a focus point with the eyes to stabilize balance. balanced weight across standing foot. cross lifted leg over standing leg, turning out the lifted knee from the hip socket. this is important – you want the hip to open yet the knee to stay stable. careful not to force the knee is the hip is tight. belly hugs in, sit deep into standing leg. slight lean forward counterbalances weight and stretches the back. both ankles straight and flexed)
Then finally this is one of the the best IT band stretches I know. Releases the hips and legs so they can free-flow in response to the contours of the mountain. The skis help anchor the feet flat, especially as you press into the knuckle where each big toe meets the foot, activating the strength of the inner leg all the way up into your torso, which helps release and stretch the outer leg from the outer hip down into the pinky toe.
(cross the lifted leg to the ground outside the standing leg. squeeze the legs together while pressing the knuckles of the big toes to the ground. belly hugs in, back straight, knees slightly bent – especially because of the pitch of the boots. the hinge forward at the hip socket and not the mid back. sit into it to play with deepening it. keep the elbows on the knees and don’t come as far forward if this is too intense)
Play with it – experimentation helps you find how it is effective for you, and this may change from day to day. Pay attention to the action and the result to learn over time what works and what doesn’t. The more comfortable and resilient we are in the body, the safer we are and the more fun we have in our sport and our life.