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Heading up the hill to take some turns? Consider bringing your yoga practice with you. And no, we’re not talking about your mat or your yoga blocks. whether you ski, snowboard, or snowshoe, your yoga practice can help you stay grounded and mindful—yes even while swiftly sliding downhill.
We talked to Alice Blunden, a London-based yoga instructor and skier, to get some ideas for how to bring yoga to your next ski day. These practices can be done anywhere—from the top of the mountain to those long lift lines. (Hey, if you have to wait, you may as well make it worthwhile.)
Engage with your breath
One of the most important—and helpful—practices to bring to your next shred sesh is mindful breathwork. “Skiing is both physically and mentally demanding and requires you to be on full alert to reduce risks,” Blunden says. “If you’re feeling nervous, scared, or anxious, it will impact your ability to think clearly and make good decisions in those…moments on the mountain.” Mindful breathwork can help counter these emotions—and enable you to ski your best.
Blunden recommends practicing the viloma pranayama technique. To practice this type of breathwork, she says to break your breath up into three parts—your belly, side ribs, and chest. After inhaling through each of these parts, exhale your breath. She suggests repeating this breath cycle five to 10 times for optimal calm.
Give your neck a release
All of that back-and-forth movement on the mountain? It may be leaving your neck feeling a little strained. “A combination of being in the cold and being physical and mentally challenged on the slopes can often lead to excessive tension in the upper traps,” Blunden says. When she’s feeling stiff, Blunden says she turns to the self-massage method dubbed the “lobster claw” technique.
To practice it, bring one hand to the opposite shoulder—and place it on the point where your neck meets your shoulder. “Place the thumb at the front of the corner of the neck and four fingers at the back, [keeping] the four fingers together,” she says. “Take a breath in through the nose and pinch the [neck] muscle. As you exhale, tilt your head to the opposite shoulder, while still pinching the muscle.” Once you release your hand, she says to bring your head back to center. She recommends repeating this technique five to 10 times on both sides. Stiff neck, be gone!
Fire up your core muscles
“Articulating the orientation of the hips in relation to the shoulders is key for short turns when skiing,” Blunden says. This type of rotation—and orientation—requires a strong core, hip stability, and mobility, she says. To work on each of these factors, Blunden recommends practicing some thoracic rotations, a practice she often does will waiting in a lift line.
To start this practice, Blunden recommends standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with a slight bend in your knees. “Raise your arms to the side and bend the elbows into ‘cactus arms,'” she says. “Cinch in around the waist and relax your shoulders. On your inhalation, rotate your rib cage to the right, keeping your belly button pointing straight forward. On your exhalation, rotate your rib cage to the left.” When you rotate to the left, make sure to keep your belly button pointing straight forward. This practice will help you work on your mobility—and ensure your body doesn’t feel super strained after a long day on the mountain.