Hurtling down a mountain on skis or a snowboard is fun. But whether you make it to the slopes only a few times a year or consistently earn a spot in the 100–day club, winter sports can be hard on the body. Take a spill on hard ice or cruise through a lengthy set of moguls and you’ll know.
While the resort hot tub is a great place to relax the muscles after the lifts close, a more active approach to recovery can counter the effects of the mountain and keep your body strong for the next time you go out.
“Yoga keeps my body feeling agile and flexible and really helps my mental game,” says professional skier Chris Benchetler. Benchetler is known for creating remarkable ski videos and is always on the move — searching for snow, rock climbing, mountain biking and surfing. He’s been practicing yoga for 10 years and has attended numerous retreats, including Lululemon’s Elite Ambassador Yoga Intensive led by Danielle Mika Nagel, the brand’s Mindfulness Manager. Benchetler may not be a yoga teacher, but practices it enough to know which poses relieve bodily stress induced by long days in the backcountry.
“My lack of routine doesn’t allow for a consistent practice, unfortunately,” he says. “Instead, I try to fit in a quick flow to clear my mind and stretch after most days of riding, even if just for ten minutes,” he says. Here are his five favorite yoga poses to complement a hard day on the hill.
1Forward Fold. “My hamstrings always seem to be the tightest part of my body after a day of skiing, and Forward Fold really allows me to check in to see where my legs are at on the soreness scale. This pose allows me to continually move deeper and deeper into my legs through the practice.”
1. Begin in with your hands on your hips. 2. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso. 3. Hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor. Don’t lock your knees. 4. If you can, place your palms or fingertips on the floor beside your feet. Those with more flexibility can place their palms on the backs of their ankles. 5. Engage your upper thigh muscles by squeezing the knees. 6. Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles. Let the head hang.
2Plank. “Plank is the most valuable part of my practice. A strong core is the glue that holds everything together when I’m rag-dolling down a mountain or absorbing impact on jumps. Plank pose really feels like a great full core pose, as it doesn’t isolate particular ab muscles or miss any stabilizers.”
1. Start on your hands and knees, wrists under shoulders. 2. Press down into your hands, draw your abs toward your spine, move your feet back and tuck your toes. 3. Align your thighs and core and head into a straight line. Keep your butt level with your body. Hold. Breathe.
3Downward Dog. “Downward Dog really gets into my hamstrings again, as well as my shoulders. It also seems to self-adjust my upper spine every time I do it, which feels amazing. My shoulders have given me trouble over the years, with three broken collar bones and some ligament damage, so this pose really allows me to check in and make sure everything is tracking in the shoulder socket.”
1. Begin on your hands and knees with the wrists directly under your shoulders and the knees under your hips. 2. Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back. 3. Inhale as you tuck your toes under your heels. Then exhale to lift your hips, coming into an upside down “V” shape. Extend your whole body without walking your hands and feet in. 4. Spread your fingers wide and press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands. Press your heels toward the floor. 5. Relax your head between your arms and gaze between your legs or toward your belly button.
4Upward Dog. “Upward Dog is another self-adjusting spinal posture for me. I spend a lot of the day crouched and bent over, all while wearing a heavy backpack. This pose allows me to improve my posture and give my body an opposing bend.”
1. Lie flat on your belly. Stretch your body along the floor and relax. Stretch your arms down the length of your body with your legs extended, a few inches apart. The tops of your feet should be resting on the floor. 2. Inhale as you place your palms on the floor on either side of your chest, near your ribs. Your legs should still be lying flat on the floor. Look straight ahead of you with your chin propped on the floor. 3. Exhale and press your hands down. Straighten your arms, bringing your torso and legs up off the floor. Your weight should be distributed between your hands and the tops of your feet. Engage your leg muscles. 4. Draw your shoulder blades back and lift your chest forward and up. Hold the pose for a couple breaths, then release your body back towards the floor.
5Warrior I. “This is a great pose to strengthen my legs and open my hips. I can really feel when my trunk and core is twisted up throughout the pose, so when it feels proper I know my body is aligned.”
1. Begin standing with your feet hip-distance apart. 2. Step one foot forward, toes facing forward, and rotate the back foot 90 degrees. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot. 3. Bend into the stretch, your front knee aligning over your ankle (shin perpendicular to floor). 4. Reach up with your arms, tilt your head back, and look to your thumbs. 5. To release, press into your back heel, straighten your front leg and step back to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Bonus: Easy Pose With Twist. “Getting into this simple, seated twist helps my spine and releases some of the impact that skiing causes.”
1. Extend your legs in front of your body and sit up straight. Then, cross your legs in front of you at the shins keeping your knees wide and placing each foot beneath the opposite knee. 2. Place your right hand on the floor behind you and bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee, exhaling as you gently twist to the right. Inhale again as you lengthen your spine. Exhale and twist deeper, but don’t force it. 3. Hold for up to 10 breaths. 4. Exhale and come back to center. 5. Switch the cross of your legs and the position of your hands. Repeat the twist on the opposite side.