Since last winter, you might have seen pretty pictures popping up on your social feeds of people practicing yoga in the snow. Now, the yoga trend known as snowga has taken over ski resorts and vacation destinations across the country. In Bozeman, MT, there’s Flow Outside, which offers snowga paired with snowshoeing adventures. And there’s the Finger Lakes Yogascapes in Canandaigua, NY, a cold-weather retreat that brings yogis to the yard twice a year (just to name a few).
But besides providing the mind-body benefits everyone loves from yoga class, adding a pre- or post-snow sports stretch, can actually help you perform better out on the slopes. “It warms up the body, builds balance and concentration, and gives you a sense of freedom that can easily transfer to your day on the mountain,” says Hannah Navarro, a skier, snowboarder and yoga instructor at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole in Wyoming. (They’re launching a snowga program next month.) What’s more, she says, doing your practice outside gives you a prime opportunity to breathe fresh, crisp air and soak up some natural light — a powerful recipe for battling winter blues, she says.
Even better news: You don’t have to go to a resort that offers snowga to reap the benefits. It all comes down to bundling up, going outdoors and getting bendy with these seven poses, handpicked by Navarro. Note to snowgis: She suggests using ski poles as props in standing and balancing poses so you don’t slip on frozen ground.
4 Pre-Skiing Snowga Poses
If you’re cranking out a flow ahead of skiing or snowboarding, get your blood moving first by doing a few sun salutations indoors. Or, take a short hike around the snowy area where you’ll practice your yoga poses, advises Navarro. Warm muscles will help you get flexible faster, especially when you’re in chilly temps. When you’re ready to go, start these four poses.
1. Crescent Lunge
This pose loosens up your hip flexors, which lowers your risk of injury and makes twists and turns down the mountain feel easier.
How to: Stand with feet together (a). Take a big step forward with your left leg and lower your body straight down until your left knee forms a right angle (b). Sweep arms forward and up until they’re straight overhead, palms facing each other (c). Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then repeat on the opposite side.
2. Downward Dog with Core Moves
This one’s your typical downward-facing dog, taken up a notch. “You’ll build heat in the muscles, engage the core, and stretch the legs — all while tapping into the power of your rhythmic breathing,” Navarro says.
How to: Start on all fours (a). Curl your toes under and raise your hips up until your body forms an upside-down V (b). From here, slowly extend your right leg up toward the sky. Then bend your left knee slightly as you draw your right knee toward your chest (c). Next, straighten your left leg and return your right foot to the ground (d). Do this move five times, then repeat on the opposite side.
This twisted position challenges your balance — something you’ll appreciate once you strap into that board. It also sends blood to your extremities. Pro tip: Deepen and slow your breath during this pose to help reduce anxiety, Navarro says.
How to: Stand with feet together and arms extended overhead, palms facing each other (a). Lower your arms, crossing them in front of your torso so your right arm is on top of the left, then bend your elbows. Your right elbow should be in the crook of the left, and your hands should wrap around each other so your palms are touching (b). Raise your hands so your forearms are perpendicular to the floor (c). Then bend your knees slightly and lift your left leg, crossing it over right. Your left thigh should be pressed over your right (d). Wrap your left leg the rest of the way around the right, so that your left shin is pressing against your right calf (e). Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then unwind to return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Not only does this pose stretch your hamstrings, calves and inner thighs, says Navarro, but it also can calm your mind. And who doesn’t like floating down the slopes in a state of zen?
How to: Start standing with feet together. Then step feet about 3 to 4 feet apart, keeping them parallel. Put your hands on your hips (a). Maintaining a flat back, hinge forward at hips and lower down until your hands touch the ground in front of you (b). Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3 Après-Ski Snowga Poses
Yoga at the end of the day can help you sidestep soreness. “The après-ski practice is a chance to relax and release any overworked muscles,” says Navarro. It’s especially good for snowboarders, she says, because it can get you centered after spending a day twisted on your board, which primarily works one side of the body. Practice these three poses to wring out your muscles. Then get inside and warm up even more. Perhaps with some hot chocolate?
1. Chair pose
After prying off those boots, you’ll want to stretch your glutes and ankles — and this pose gets the job done, says Navarro.
How to: Stand with feet together (b). Bend your knees and lower your butt to the ground, as far as you can comfortably go. Ideally, you want your thighs parallel to the floor. At the same time, sweep your arms forward and up until they’re overhead, palms facing each other (b). Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing deeply.
2. Low Lunge with Quad Stretch
Serving all the post-ski sweet spots, this pose opens your groin, hip flexors, quads, shoulders, chest and neck. To intensify the stretch, focus on taking deeper breaths with each inhale and exhale, says Navarro.
How to: Stand with feet together (a). Take a big step forward with your left leg (b). Bend your left knee until it’s bent 90 degrees. Keep your knee directly over your ankle (c). Lower your right knee to the floor (d). Sweep your arms forward and up until they’re straight overhead (e). If you feel comfortable here, take it further by bending your right knee to lift your foot toward your butt, as you twist your torso to the left. Grab and hold your right foot with your left hand (f). Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then reverse to return to start, and repeat on opposite side.
End your day on a totally blissed-out note. Also known as savasana, this pose helps you completely relax and restore your body so it’s ready for more snow-filled action tomorrow. We won’t blame you if you want to work in some snow angels, though.
How to: Lie on your back, legs straight and arms by your sides, palms facing up toward the sky. Let your heels touch and toes fall out to the sides (a). Focus on your breath and stay in position for a few minutes or longer, if you’d like (b). It helps to put on your favorite mellow song, too.