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Catch Some Air

Yoga & Pilates for Winter Sports

Many of us may notice that during the winter our shoulders feel tighter than they do in the summer, particularly along the top and front areas. As the temperature drops, we tend to hunch our shoulders in an effort to protect our necks from the cold. However, if you wear a scarf and relax your shoulders, you won't be any colder than when your shoulders are up to your ears!

In addition, most clothing worn in winter sports limit your range of motion. This, plus the impact-stress created while skiing, snowboarding or ice-skating, makes the joints feel tighter than in the summer months. A great complement, then, is to incorporate lots of rotations and stretches of the neck, shoulders, and hips in your yoga practice. Consciously work on increasing the range of motion in these “problem areas” by circling your hip and shoulder joints. A great pilates exercise that supports this is single leg circles, and a great yoga asana is sun breath (with your arms circling as in a swan dive in each direction). Use these, or a simple Pilates AB series, to warm up.

Following your winter sport workout, cool down with these gentle yoga rotations: seated twist (any leg variation), seated single leg forward bends , revolved side angle and revolved triangle. Pay particular attention to the differences in your twists to the right versus the left of your body. Allow your breath to slow and your motion to remain steady throughout. Winter sports can be especially hard on the lungs and sinuses since it's really cold. These stretches are a great opportunity to warm up from the inside as you ease out of your vigorous activity.

For especially tight necks and shoulders try camel pose, using any variation or modification you feel is appropriate to open the pectorals, shoulder muscles, and hips. Another shoulder and hip opener is locust. Again, you'll want to take any version of this pose that feels comfortable for your body. Both camel and locust have a wide degree of variation and difficulty.

Remember to wear comfortable clothing and to practice cool down exercises in a heated room. Resist the urge to strip down to your long johns in the snow to stretch! It can shock the body’s systems. In other words, be kind to yourself. Support your body each time you go out and your body will support you the next time!

Kate Artibee
Master Pilates Trainer
Sanctuary Pilates and Wellness

Recommended: Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern B.K.S. Iyengar


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