When you think of yoga for winter sports, you probably think of a good stretch at the end of a day on the hill, offering rest and relief to soothe those achey muscles, or improving your balance and building strength in challenging poses. But a yoga and mindfulness practice also has tremendous benefits for your mental well-being, and can be a useful tool to help you remain calm and focused when out on the hill.
Yoga for happy bodies
Physically, a regular yoga practice can help you :
improve your balance - think when you're one-footing off a chairlift, or staying on your feet when you hit an unexpected bump or icy patch
increase your physical strength, with many poses targeting the specific muscles we use skiing or snowboarding, allowing you to shred harder and longer!
improve your flexibility - think getting low in carves, or tweaking grabs and throwing spins in the park
help you recover more quickly after a long day on the hill, so you're ready to go without too many aches or pains the next day
and decrease your risk of injury by keeping your body in good shape!
Yoga for happy minds
In the same way that your body begins to feel more supple, strong and in balance over time the more you practice, the great news is that the practice has the same ripple effect on your mind and well-being.
You know that yummy feeling after a great yoga class or meditation session, that leaves you feeling all light and floaty, and like the things that were bothering you, maybe don't so much anymore?! The more you cultivate that inner calm, balance and ease on the mat, the more readily the mind gravitates toward that state off the mat, and even out on the hill. The process is called neuroplasticity, and the theory is that the brain, just like a muscle, can be worked, changed and "rewired" according to how you use it. So how does that benefit us as skiers and snowboarders?
Present moment awareness
On the mat, you set aside time to be entirely present, to tune into the movements and sensations of your body and the rhythm of your breath, hopefully without too many distractions. We become more present and aware, less in our heads and more in our bodies. As we become more aligned with our bodies and attuned to our needs, we're able to know when you can go hard on the hill and when to take it easy offer yourself some rest to avoid fatigue or even injury.
Mental clarity + focus
The balance, strength and flexibility we create through our yoga practice don't just manifest in our physical bodies, but also in our state of mind. Yoga and meditation practices can help the mind feel more spacious, offering a state of clarity and calm which can be vital when it comes to decision making in tricky situations like a whiteout, or helping us to attain the focus we need to nail a new trick or take on a run that challenges us.
Yoga and meditation help us to access our inner state of calm that resides deep within. With practice, the closer we bring this calm to the surface. Keeping calm on the mountain is essential, whether you're a beginner facing the fear of learning, an advanced skier or snowboarder keeping a cool head and making good decisions in the backcountry, or even just trying not to lose it in a lift queue!
Who doesn't want to feel more blissful?! It's easy to get wrapped up in the little annoyances of the day-to-day, even on the mountain. Yoga reminds us to find the joy in each moment, quiet our busy minds and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. The benefits of yoga on our mental health, combined with time spent outdoors in nature is the perfect recipe for more bliss.
Through your yoga practice, you'll be more in tune with your body's strength, flexibility and abilities, and cultivate a calmer, more collected state of mind that allows you to take on challenges, maybe overcome fears, and feel more confident on the mountain.