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After a great day of downhill runs, there are few things more satisfying than sliding out of your ski boots, dusting off the snow, and gathering your friends to share warm beverages and good memories.
Après-ski is a French term that translates to “after ski,” and refers to any type of post-ski activity. Returning to the lodge for après-ski typically includes warming up by the fire and easing your tired muscles. Adding yoga to your après-ski routine can help you recover more quickly and wake up fresh for another great day on the slopes.
First, let’s start with a review of the biomechanics involved in skiing. While skiing requires an overall level of strength and flexibility, the lower extremity muscles are targeted as the primary movers. In downhill skiing, your body is basically in an Utkatasana (Chair Pose) position, with the elbows bent to enable grasping the poles. The gluteus maximus, hip adductors (inner thigh muscles), and hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) work synergistically to keep the body stable and upright while also allowing for side-to-side steering motion. The quadriceps flex the hips, while the hamstrings flex the knees to allow for a varying range of up and down motion to maintain buoyancy in your skiing posture. Finally, the calf muscles work to sustain an upright position while the feet are fixed in dorsiflexion within your ski boots.
See also: 5 Ways Skiing Made Me a Better Yogi
12 yoga poses to help you stretch out after skiing
This après-ski yoga routine will keep you carving those edges with grace and agility by bringing balance and mobility to the joints and muscles required for one of your favorite winter activities.
Mountain Pose is a natural way to begin your après-ski routine and keep you connected to the earth. Stand tall with your feet under your hips. Press down through both feet equally and relax your arms alongside your body with your elbows straight and your palms facing forward. Feel free to close your eyes to heighten your sense of balance. Spread your fingers wide and imagine slightly reaching your fingertips downward to stretch your biceps, counteracting the bend in your elbows during skiing. Hold for 5 breath cycles.
Uttanasana stretches the backs of your legs, including the gluteus, hamstrings, and calf muscles. From Mountain Pose, dive forward over your legs, keeping your knees slightly bent to alleviate any strain in your lower back. Hold for 3–5 breaths.
Downward-Facing Dog stretches your lower back, the backs of your legs, and your calf muscles. The extension of your arms also offers a stretch of your biceps, which counters the tension caused by flexing your elbows while grasping the ski poles. Stay here for 3–5 breaths.
Upward-Facing Dog as a chest opener, but the pose is also great for skiers because it stretches the tops of your feet and the front of your ankles (which are in a flexed position in your ski boots). It also reinforces a stretch of your elbows after a day of bent-elbow positioning. Hold Upward-Facing Dog for 2–3 breaths, then make your way back into Downward-Facing Dog.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) on right
Your hips are generally in a flexed position to some degree when skiing, which can make the hip flexors tense up. Low Lunge is a great way to stretch away that tightness. From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward, bending your knee so it aligns over your ankle, and lower your left knee to the ground. Reach your arms up to the sky and straighten your elbows. Hold for 3-5 breaths. For an additional, and deeper quadriceps stretch, reach back for your left ankle while bending your knee, so that your left heel moves toward your buttocks.
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (Pigeon) on right
Pigeon Pose stretches the glutes and abductors (outer hips)—muscles that work hard to keep your skis parallel as you glide down the mountain. From Low Lunge, lower your hands to the mat framing your front foot, then walk that foot toward your left hand. Lower the outer right knee toward the mat and place a block or blanket under your right hip to level out your pelvis. Stay upright through your torso in order to feel a left hip flexor stretch, or instead, relax your torso forward over your right leg for a deeper right outer hip stretch. Stay here for 5 or more breaths and slowly exit back into Downward-Facing Dog.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend stretches the glutes, hamstrings, low back, and hip adductors; pretty efficient for one pose. From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward and walk your hands to the left side of the mat so your legs straighten and your toes point toward the long edge of the mat. Inhale to lift your head and chest slightly as you extend your spine, and as you exhale, fold forward. Hold here for 3–5 breaths.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) on left
From Wide-Legged Forward Bend, walk your hands to the left and turn your left foot forward toward the back end of the mat, framing the foot with your hands. Bend your left knee so it aligns over your left ankle. Lower your right knee to the ground and stretch your arms upward as you did on the right side. Hold again for 3–5 breaths for optimal benefits. You again have the option to bend the right knee in order to catch the ankle and move the foot toward the buttocks for a more intense quadriceps stretch (pictured).
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (Pigeon) on left
From Low Lunge, walk your left foot toward the right side of the mat and lower your left outer knee and hip to the mat. Place a block under your left hip to level your pelvis. Keep your torso upright to increase the stretch in your right hip flexor, or lower your torso over your left leg for a deeper left outer hip stretch. Hold for 5 breaths.
Anantasana (Vishnu’s Couch) variation with quadricep stretch
From Pigeon, extend your (left) front leg back and lie on your belly. Slowly roll onto your right side and cup the side of your head with your right hand, propping up onto your right elbow. Bend your left knee and catch hold of your ankle with your left hand. Draw your heel toward your buttocks for a quadricep stretch. Hold for 3–5 breaths and roll back on your belly. Repeat on the left side.
Wrist stretches are a simple, yet wonderful way to ease the soreness of the forearms. From a seated position, straighten your right arm in front of you with your palm facing away from you and your fingers pointing downward. Place your left palm onto your right hand and press back into your right fingers, feeling the sensation move from your inner right wrist up throughout your forearm. This stretch also helps to open up the elbow joints that stay almost perpetually in flexion when digging your ski poles into the snow. Hold for 2–3 breaths, then switch sides.
Any good yoga sequence, just like any good ski day, should end with deep relaxation. Be sure to take time for Savasana to achieve a state of optimal rest. You’ve earned this rewarding rest from all your time on the slopes. Stay in Savasana, covered by a warm blanket for at least 5 minutes to complete your après-ski yoga routine.
See also: 8 Yoga Poses to Stretch Tight Calves