by Lauren Jacobs: “I can’t wait to blow out my knee, have major reconstructive surgery, and then spend the next six to nine months in recovery,” said nobody, ever!
Yet, recently the Washington Post reported that approximately 150,000 people seek medical treatment each year after a ski or snowboarding mishap.
Approximately 150,000 people seek medical treatment each year after a ski or snowboarding mishap.
You may even know someone who has suffered from a major ski-related injury – torn ACL, dislocated shoulder, fractured wrist – or maybe you have experienced a ski or snowboard-related injury yourself . . .
So – how can yoga help skiers and snowboarders prevent injury on the slopes?
Skiers and Snowboarders: Practice These 3 Yoga Exercises to Prevent Injuries:
Problem #1: Side Dominance / Muscle Dominance
We all have a favorite leg, right? Okay, maybe we don’t all have a favorite leg, but we pretty much all have a dominant leg and dominant muscle groups throughout the body.
In 2012, the National Institute of Health (NIH) published an abstract concluding that the knee joint accounted for about 1 out of every 3 of ski-related injuries for male and female skiers.
This study also found that female skiers were two times more likely to have an ACL injury on their non-dominant leg! (No, male skiers were not completely out of the woods on this one, but the risk was greater in females.)
Another NIH study reported that shoulder injuries accounted for an average of 10% of all skiing and snowboarding-related injuries.
To build symmetry in the body and decrease your risk of injury on the slopes, it is important to recognize and tackle these imbalances before they lead to weaknesses that may result in injury.
This is where yoga comes in . . . Try the following yoga poses to check for asymmetries related to common ski and snowboarding injuries.
Yoga Solution #1: Half Side Squat (Ardha Skandasana)
A half side squat, or half Skandasana, helps increase leg and inner thigh flexibility and also protect the knee. This pose is great for the hips, knees, and legs. Doing this pose on both sides will let you know if one side is stronger or more flexible than the other.
This yoga pose also gives you an opportunity to check for any knee strain or twinge, which may be indicators you need to do some pre-slope strengthening of the muscles around your knees!
Let’s try it:
- Start in a Wide-Legged Forward Fold
- Slowly bend your right knee into a half-squat
- Keep your left leg straight and flex your left foot so your left toes lift off the mat
- Keep your right heel planted firmly on your mat and gently press your right knee outward to avoid it caving inward
- You can either keep your hands on the floor or bring your hands to heart center for a balance challenge
- Breathe in and out through your nose for 3-5 breaths
- Release your hands to the mat, and come back through Wide-Legged Forward Fold
- Repeat on side 2
Yoga Solution #2: Eight-Point Shoulder Opener (Astavakrasana)
Eight-Point Shoulder Opener is a great yoga pose for checking in on your shoulder mobility and spine health. It opens the shoulders, chest, upper back and spine.
This pose will help you compare your range of motion on one side versus the other and can even help you tuck, roll, and fall in a safer and more mindful way if you fall.
Let’s try it:
- Lay down on your stomach on your mat
- Plant your left palm on the mat next to your chest
- Slowly and gently roll onto your right cheek and right shoulder
- Reach your right arm out like a “T” (perpendicular to your mat) with the right palm facing down
- Rotate onto your right hip
- Stay here or bend your left knee so your kneecap faces the ceiling and plant your left foot on the floor behind the right knee
- Let gravity do the work as you breathe in and out through your nose. Do not force the stretch – if it feels too intense, back off
- Stay here for 5-10 breaths
- Mindfully come out of the pose the opposite way you came into it, then repeat on side 2
Problem #2: A Lack of Focus
How many times have you been on the slopes and heard someone yelling something akin to: “Hey , watch where you are going!”
While it seems like aggressive and passive skiers/snowboarders have always struggled to co-exist, the latest technological advances have only added to this problem.
There is nothing like sitting down on the mountain for a quick breather or a photo op, only to get rammed into by a speed-demon plowing down the mountain! OUCH!
So, how can yoga help you to avoid such an injury? While you may not be able to control someone else’s capacity for being present, you can certainly improve your own awareness and ability to respond mindfully and quickly to an unpredictable situation.
Here’s how . . .
Yoga Solution: Counting Breaths
This technique is a great way to improve your awareness and help you focus.
Set a timer for 3-10 minutes (or however much time you can spare). Lay on your back or find a comfortable seated position.
Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply in and out through your nose. After a few deep breaths, begin to breathe normally and count: inhale, exhale 1; inhale, exhale 2; inhale, exhale 3 (and so on).
Every time you find yourself on autopilot or distracted, start over at breath 1. It doesn’t matter how high you are able to count. The exercise is all about training your mind to focus and then, when you get distracted (because you are human and WILL get distracted), learn to refocus.
Some days, when your mind is particularly busy, you might not even get past 1 without getting distracted, but that’s ok!
When the timer goes off, take a few more deep, slow breaths and then open your eyes.
Practice this technique daily and/or as needed. And please put your cell-phone away on the mountain!
Yoga to Prevent Injury On the Slopes: The Bottom Line
For skiers and snowboarders, it’s important to practice mindfulness and check for strength, flexibility, and muscle dominance BEFORE you hit the slopes!
And, if you feel particularly distracted or physically asymmetrical, consider hitting up the yoga studio rather than the mountain that day (or before you hit the mountain).
Mindfulness, presence, and certain yoga poses can do wonders to prevent injury and increase your performance on the slopes.