catalyst

For me, snowboarding is physical yoga practice, asana ~ moving meditation, becoming comfortable and articulate in my body and in relation with the physical world. As I ride I gradually tune in to the subtleties of my movement, awakening presence in my entire body. I don’t have to try so much anymore, it just starts to happen. The movement becomes efficient, somewhat effortless. Grounded in my body, I become aware not only of my body, but with my body ~ my movement responding to the contours of the mountain, the crisp scent of the air and the temperature on my skin, the sounds of my board against the texture of the snow and the wind all around me. Everything becomes more vibrant. There’s nowhere to go and nothing else to do but to be right here, completely open to the moment. It refreshes me, brings me back to center.
I used to get pretty sad at the end of the season, as I thought I depended on this activity to do all this for me. Without it I would feel flat, empty, dull…or so I feared. Through time I realize that these activities that have the potential to revitalize us and bring us spontaneously into the moment remind us that this is possible. We don’t have to become attached to the catalyst, there are many ways to do it. Breathe in, feel yourself in your entire body. Hear the sounds. Right now.
I will miss you, my beloved mountain, my mermaid~tail serpentine snow dance. Another season has come and is passing and I have again learned so much from you.
Until the next time we meet dear friend, the love I tap into when I’m with you lives inside of me.
(yeah, yeah I know kinda sappy. And I mean it  🙂 )

loony 017

Advertisements

Vernal Equinox Yoga and Snowshoe Meditation Retreat in the White Mountains

Spring in the White Mountains

Spring in the White Mountains

The word yoga has the same root as yoke, meaning the yoking together of polar opposites as two sides of the same thing. Holding both extremes and the continuum between, balanced at the center.

The vernal, or spring, equinox, balanced precisely between the Winter and Summer Solstices, is typically the turning point weather wise as we begin to experience the effects of the shifting, as daylight becomes equal to nighttime and the still and silent winter woods are being balanced by the warmth and awakening of spring melt.

Come experience the extremes simultaneously on this pinnacle day, balanced right at the center. The winter woodlands opening up with a celebration of the sounds and signs of spring.

http://deniseporterkemp.com/events–snowshoe.html

simple warm-up sun salutation

Appropriate for beginner to advanced…
Sun salutations, the foundation of vinyasa flow yoga – basically, placing your attention with intention on moving the body in rhythm with the breath – focus the mind on what’s happening while its happening, helping us notice the subtleties of actions and their results, as well as warm up the joints and muscles to prepare before or reset between longer held postures. Sun salutations are a useful way to begin a practice, and can be great as a short stand alone practice anytime.
I came up with this sun salutation at first for people who couldn’t or didn’t want to do a downward dog, or before coming into a first downward dog in a yoga practice. At this point I utilize this sequence myself before my own practice most of the time and begin most classes with it for everyone.
If it is too much pressure in the legs, or anywhere, to come into child’s pose you don’t have to bring the hips all the way to the feet, and if it is tender in your back you could go back and forth between upward and downward facing cat on the hands and knees instead of bringing the belly to the ground for upward facing dog. If your knees are tweaky this may aggravate them, yet if you feel alright to try it, putting a towel for extra cushion under the knees can help and go really slowly through the transitions. And if you want to add a downward dog, one fits nicely between the upward dog and the forward bend at the end. If you have any questions, let me know, and enjoy!
With props to my videographer Philip O’Sullivan and his iPod touch 5… 🙂

 

 

Basic SnowYoga

If you are only going to do a few warm-ups before heading onto the mountain, this is what I suggest, in this order of importance.  They will help your balance, flexibility, strength and endurance.  Practice slow, steady breathing to keep yourself calm and cultivate an awareness of what you are doing while you are doing it, and if possible, of what’s going on around you without being distracted by it.  Just keep bringing your mind back to the breath.  This will serve you on the mountain.

Thanks again to Lauren O’Reilly, Training Manager for Loon Mountain SnowSports.

Enjoy!

Figure Four/hip socket, IT band, back, balance – This can be done sitting, even in the gondola!  Cross one leg over the other, if possible the knee of the standing leg is just above the ankle of the crossed leg, turning out the crossed leg from the hip socket.  Sit deep into it to increase the intensity, engaging the belly and your standing thigh, flexing your crossed leg’s foot.  For balance, focus your gaze on an unmoving point to stabilize, and bring weight equally over the standing foot.  It can help to roll weight toward the knuckle where the big toe meets your foot.

Forward bend/hamstring, calf, back – Feet hip or shoulder-width apart.  Start with knees bent to hinge at the hip socket, elbows on knees, back straight, chin slightly tucked so the neck is an extension of the spine.  If it is ok here, take hands behind the calves and tilt forward more, belly engaged, thighs lifting the kneecaps, shoulder blades retracting into the back and spreading away from the ears.  Continue lifting the hips as long as you can keep the belly touching the thighs with the back straight.  Bringing weight forward to bring the hips over the heels.  Lauren has her knees more bent in part to compensate for the forward tilt of the ski boots.  It’s fine to keep the knees bent – this will release some of the intensity on the hamstrings so you can hinge in the hip socket and keep the back straight.  At some point the lower back may curve slightly, as the belly is pressing into the thighs, to bring the head towards the shins, bringing the stretch deeper into the back.  In my first posture the weight is a little back and I’m lengthening my head away from the hips.  In the second I’m letting weight rock forward as i draw the head into the shins.  Keep the back very straight if you have  – or to prevent – any disk or lower back sensitivity.

Cross IT band/IT bands, lateral (outside) legs, lower back, back – For now I only have the pictures in skis, although this can be done in either pair of boots or without.  Cross one leg over the other, pressing both big toes to the ground to deepen the stretch.  Engage thighs up into the hips.  Belly hugs in.  Knees can be a little bent especially if this posture hyper-extends the back knee.  Squeeze the legs together and bring the front hip back into alignment with the back hip.  Back as straight as possible.  Do both legs.

Lunge – Thighs, psoas, shoulders, hips, back – This is the precursor to so many great stretches for snowsports.  Hone your ability here.  Front knee over ankle, although you can see with the forward tilt of ski boots the knee needs to be in front of the ankle.  Back leg at an angle rather than having the hips right above the back knee.  This protects the knee and deepens the stretch.  If it is better for your knee or you prefer for whatever reason you can keep the knee up in the warrior 1 variation like the third picture.  Keep the back heel lifted.   Telly skiers – you can do this right in your skis.

Pressing the hands on the knees, let the hips relax toward the front heel as the belly hugs in to tuck the tailbone and the shoulders roll back as the sternum lifts up to lengthen the psoas.  Enjoy.  Squeezing the legs together, slightly inwardly rotate the thighs to turn the torso forward and keep the stretch in the back thigh and protect the back groin.  If your back knee is up, straighten the back leg.  Front femur draws back into the hip socket.  If you feel stable try lifting the arms, the shoulder blades pressing forward toward the sternum to bring in a slight upper back backbend.  Resist squeezing your shoulder blades together to keep the upper back wide and open.  Its easy to get sloppy there – notice how much cleaner Lauren’s alignment is than mine.

Lunge twist/same as lunge plus front IT band, back inner thigh and twist in the back body – From the lunge take the opposite hand down inside of the front foot.  Squeezing the legs together and drawing the front leg back into the hip socket.  Front big toe grounds.  Belly hugs in to align and anchor the hips.  Twisting out of the hips, bottom shoulder rotates under the top, your spine the axis, spiraling the twist through your whole spine rather than letting it stuck in any one spot.  Both sides.

Camel/thighs, hips, psoas, shoulders, back – If this is too much, just skip it, the lunge does a lot of the same things.  One arm at a time may be more accessible.  It is my favorite on-snowboard stretch.  Belly hugs in, tailbone tucks down.  You can start with your hands on your hips and the elbows squeezing slightly together to open the chest without collapsing into the lower back.  This is key – you want the sternum lifting so the back side of the body is lifting too.  The one armed version helps this as the top arm is accentuating the lifting up.  Hips press forward to arc the body like a bow.  Fingers can face forward or back.  Try not to collapse the neck either – you have an arc lengthening from the tailbone to the base of the skull in the back-body.  I find it helps to breathe into the lower rib area.  When you come up, bring both shoulders at the same time, the head comes up last.

Downward dog/everywhere, esp. stretches back of legs, hips and shoulders, strengthens belly and arms – This will release/neutralize your back after the camel and/or lunges and stretch your whole lower back.  If it just doesn’t call to you, you could try it with your hands on a wall, fence, chair or table, or your ski poles.  If you skip this all together, definitely end with another forward bend.

Pressing weight down into the hands to bring weight back off your shoulders and back into the hips and legs.  Approximately equal weight between hands and feet.  Feet hip width apart, torso about 90* angle with legs.  Engage belly and thighs in and up towards the hip crease to lengthen the spine.  Its fine if the knees are bent, that can help you straighten the back.  Maybe gently peddle the legs to loosen the calves.  Your heels never need to touch the ground.  Ribcage hugs in to keep from collapsing into the shoulders and belly.  Shoulders draw up into the back while widening away from the ears.  So as not to collapse in the wrists, let weight press forward into the base of the fingers, where they meet the hands, especially the knuckle where the pointer finger meets the hand.  If you are trying the standing dog, hips are right over the feet.

~~~~~~~

Finish with another forward bend…and take a few moments to stand where you are or sit if you like, and feel the effects of the postures integrate.  Take a few deep breaths, feel the belly expand with the inhale.  Of course you could do that on the lift too…

Meditative Hip Opening Sequence

Relaxing reclining sequence appropriate for all levels. Helpful for preparing the body for seated meditation, to calm anxiety, and as a restorative for athletes. Opens hips, It band, hamstrings, calves. I often begin morning or end afternoon classes with these postures.
When needed, keep a calm steady breath. When you can, let the breath breathe you deeply.
Recorded without music so you can practice in the silence or add your own music. If you are just watching the video for inspiration, the first leg is completed at 5:54. If you want to practice along with the video, I do the sequence on both legs.

Snowyoga – SnowSki Salutation

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.

Enjoy!