Don’t let your sore muscles ruin the fun this winter season. Here are the five best post-skiing yoga stretches to help you relieve them!
Reverse Warrior Pose
Although all warrior poses work wonders for opening the hips and stretching all leg muscles, reverse warrior takes it one step further and adds in a huge chest opener and a side stretch that comes from a deep compression on the opposite side of the body. Think of it as a true definition of yin and yang in the body: The more you compress on the left, the more you’ll be able to open on the right. This is why it’s important to work both sides equally so that you get the maximum benefit of this pose.
Starting in a strong and stable warrior II, inhale and reach forward with your front arm before leaning back into your lower-back compression, upper arm guiding you all the way. Keeping your chest open, lower the back arm down and grab onto your hamstring or calf for support (not the knee), using it as leverage to create an even bigger lift in your torso. Use inhales to grow taller and stretch your whole side body; it’ll make those ski turns more efficient.
Stay here for three-five full breath cycles (inhales and exhales), reset in warrior II and repeat on the second side choosing to flow through your vinyasa or simply stepping back into downward dog and switching up the legs.
Skiing has the tendency to tighten your hip flexors, those little muscles across the front of your hips. Stretching them keeps them from shifting your pelvis and causing trouble in your lower back, and camel pose is definitely one of the best yoga poses to help you out.
Starting on your knees, hip-distance apart, place your hands on the small of your back, fingers pointed down. Take a big inhale, and as you exhale, slowly lean back while keeping the heart opened and front body stretched. Keep pressing your hips forward and down to stretch your lower back and let your head fall and relax. Use every inhale to grow taller and every exhale to push your hips forward, maintaining a good posture.
If you wish to take this a step further, you can place your palms on your heels (feet tucked or un-tucked) and get even deeper into the pose. If you find yourself straining too much or unable to take deep breaths, take a step back and place your palms back on your lower back. There’s no benefit in barely being able to get in the pose as you’ll never fully experience the stretch. The goal is to relieve your hip flexors, not strain them even more.
Cow Face Pose
Although funnily named, cow face pose has numerous benefits for your hips and lower back, which make it the perfect muscle-relieving pose after a day on the slopes. Starting in a comfortable seat with both knees bent, cross one leg over the other and try to get your knees to align right on top of each other, tops of the feet touching the ground. This might not be an easy task as everyone’s body is different, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t get the alignment right: The goal is to have one leg crossed over the other, with both sitting bones on the floor.
Staying upright and just breathing in that position can do plenty because you’ll likely already be feeling the stretch. You can take it a step further, however: Place your palms on the floor beside you and use them as leverage to slowly fold forward, still keeping the sitting bones firmly pressed into the floor so that your lower back gets a nice, full stretch. Stay here for a couple of breath cycles before switching sides. You might notice one hip being more open than the other, so use your breath to show that side a little bit more love by staying determined and focused throughout the uncomfortable stretch.
Side Lunge Pose
Nothing stretches the outer hips like a good side lunge. The ability to control how deep you want (or need) to go is what makes it so perfect for everyone, from an avid yoga practitioner to someone who’s never once taken a class.
Start in a standing position with your legs spread wide. Bend your left knee and keep your right leg straight, both feet pressed firmly into the floor. Place your right palm into the floor, close to your left foot and push into the floor, creating a lift in your upper body and straightening your spine. Lift your left arm up towards the ceiling and use every exhale to go deeper into the pose by lowering your hips as close to parallel as possible, feeling the stretch intensify with every quarter of an inch you drop. Use that force to stretch your right hamstring at the same time and play with shifting your hips left and right to find that sweet stretching spot. After three-five deep breath cycles, return to starting position and repeat everything on the other side, starting with bending your right knee.
Wide-Legged Downward Dog Pose
This variation of the downward dog is special because it supports the lower back in a much more efficient way—you’re not struggling to transfer the weight from your arms to your legs, like you usually are in a traditional down dog. This way, your upper body stays relaxed and you’re able to really work on extending all back muscles and at the same time, stretch your legs.
Starting in a downward dog, walk your feet into a much wider stance, where you’re able to really firm your feet into the ground. Slowly walk your hands inwards, shortening the distance between your hands and feet, so that your weight is unevenly distributed, with the majority transferred to your lower body. Use your palms to push your hips up and back in order to elongate your spine, and you can even get onto your fingertips to push yourself further and elongate even more. Stay here for five-ten breaths (or longer) and feel your spine muscles relax as you’ve eliminated all possible tension contributors.
Skiing and other winter sports are amazing as they’re performed in the fresh, crisp, mountain air, but they’re also very taxing on the body. Make these stretches a part of your daily post-ski routine and enjoy all snow activities to the fullest.