Getting Mountain Fit - Using Yoga to improve Flexibility and Mobility

Skiing is a demanding sport in which mobility is often over looked, especially in the amateur or weekend warrior; but what is mobility and how does it differ from flexibility?

Mobility is your body’s capability to actively move through range at your joints whereas flexibility is a passive movement. To understand this better consider a gymnast doing the splits on the floor (flexibility) vs jumping into a splits position in mid-air (mobility). Floor splits is an entirely passive movement where the floor acts to push the gymnast into this position however in mid-air, the gymnast has to bring him/herself into a splits position actively.

To achieve good mobility (active movement) you must first have good flexibility (passive movement), balance and muscle activation (do your muscles understand what your brain is telling them to do?).

So what are the benefits of improving mobility?

  • Improved performance by equalising any asymmetries
  • Help to prevent soft tissue injury by correcting muscle and movement imbalances.
  • Improve your recovery by optimising function prior to exertion which means;
  • Longer and better sessions on the slopes!

Yoga is an ancient art that combines both mobility and flexibility with strength and balance. It is a perfect place to start and is easily accessible through gym classes and via YouTube videos that you can undertake in your own home before you head out to the Alps.

Alternatively try all or some of the following sequence of exercises to increase your mobility, strength and balance.

Mountain Pose

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Stand with your big toes together and your heels slightly separated. Start from your feet; lift the insides of your arches, squeeze your thighs and lengthen through your spine. Open through your chest while rolling your shoulders backwards. Line your ears with your shoulders, shoulders with pelvis and pelvis with heels. Breathe in and out in a relaxed pattern and relax your face.

Chair Pose

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Start from the mountain pose and raise your arms in front of you. Exhale and bend your knees so they come forward in front of your knees keeping your heels on the floor. Aim to get your thighs parallel to the floor and extend your spine pointing your tailbone back and down behind you. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Return to the mountain pose.

Forward Bend

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Stand with your feet approximately 6 inches apart and your arms above your head. Exhale and fold forward from your hips. If you cannot reach the floor, standing on a strap which you can hold the ends of may be useful. Remain in this position inhaling and exhaling. Lift you tail bones while keeping your spine neutral and your head facing your knees.

Downward facing dog

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From your forward bend position walk your hands forward 3 ½ to 4 foot keeping them flat on the floor while your legs and torso remain straight. Keep your heels flat on the floor and tuck your head between your arms. Exhale and draw your shoulder blades back and down towards your tailbone so that your chest moves forward towards your thighs.

Warrior 1

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From your downward facing dog position step one step forward between your hands and bring your torso upright.  Turn you back foot out 90 degrees and anchor both feet. Bend your front knee keeping your hips forward so that your knee comes above your ankle. Lift your hands up above your head. Inhale and engage your abdomen while extending your spine towards the ceiling and reaching up. Maintain this position for 30 seconds ensuring your feet remain anchored.

Warrior 2

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Exhale and lower your arms from warrior 1. Turn your pelvis so your hips are aligned with your feet and your torso is facing side wards. Keeping your torso upright and spine extending towards the ceiling, lift your arms so that one faces towards your front foot and one towards your back foot. Keeping your arms level and parallel to the floor stretch your shoulder blades apart and reach your arms as wide as you can.

Lower your arms and step your feet back together in the middle of the mat so that you are ready to start again from your mountain pose. This time swap which foot you are placing at the front – it’s good to improve your balance on both sides to aid symmetry.

Please contact Bonne Santé with any queries, we hope to meet you on both a yoga mat and the slopes!

Sarah Harrison
Bonne Santé Physiotherapist BSc (Hons), Birmingham University 2015, MCSP, MAACP

The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and educational material relating to exercise, physiotherapy and injury management. Bonne Santé Alps has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided 'as is, as available', without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advice from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

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