Getting Mountain Fit - Yoga with Altitude

People would assume that yoga and skiing are completely contradictory, particularly if the latter is more socially orientated. The excitement of conquering any run at speed (more often than not, a little ‘jolly’) compared to what is often the restorative, slow-paced, strengthening practice of yoga, does seem a little confusing. However, when combined, yoga is the yin to skiing’s yang, they complement each other, encouraging a balance that improves quality in each other.

When you incorporate yoga practice into your holiday, you allow your body a chance to recover, awaken, engage and strengthen muscles in the AM (who doesn’t want a solid centre of gravity - at any level?) and relax and lengthen them in the PM.

Not only is there the physical asana aspect of yoga to consider, but the meditative side too. One method used in class that has many benefits is Pranayama (controlled breathing). Pranayama not only calms the body and mind but also helps keep the body hydrated and allows for maximising your lung capacity, a necessity for any human in high altitudes where atmospheric oxygen levels fall to as low as 60% compared to sea level.

There are many Pranayama techniques that can aid your lungs, the most basic and useful technique is called Ujjayi Pranayama. A slow deep breathing technique where you breath in and out via your nostrils, directing the air through the back of your throat making a HA sound. Are you trying it? Slow long breaths are critical - 4 to 6 counts on the inhale and 6 to 8 counts on the exhale.

Another technique practiced is Kapalabhati Pranayama, a forced exhalation, created by stomach pumping contractions and natural inhalations. This process helps detoxify the body by removing more carbon dioxide from your blood and allowing for increased capacity for oxygen uptake once you return to normal breathing.

Ultimately this Pranayama breathing combined with the physical practice of yoga provides synergistic benefits such as core strength, flexibility, chest expansion, relaxation, positivity and predominantly that mind-body (and mountain) connection.

On a personal level, I have practiced yoga for over a decade but in the past couple of years when I have resided more in the Alps, flowing through asanas in the alpine air, I can attest to the swift positive difference in my fitness level, endurance and general health.

For this reason, my early riser sessions and sundowner classes remain popular with both seasonaires and weekly warriors. I am offering you more energy and vitality, and in turn more time on the slopes, more bang for the buck, am I persuading you yet?!

Below I have highlighted several simple poses that skiers, boarders, climbers, hikers, hell...any mountain lover can integrate into their holiday or use pre-season to get ready to hit the snow. I hope they help!

Crescent Moon Pose

This pose strengthens the thighs, ankles, abdomen, and buttocks. It opens the chest, shoulders, and torso, while lengthening the spine. This pose also effectively stretches the groins, hamstrings, and calves.

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Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose

This pose really puts a fire into the legs as well as engaging the core. The extension of the leg also gives a great hamstring and inner thigh stretch.

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Warrior 1, 2 & 3

When practiced correctly, the warrior poses work every muscle you’ve got. From your arms and shoulders, to your hips and glutes, and all the way down your legs. The perfect warm up for a skier or boarder!

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Upward facing dog

Upward facing dog is an old faithful; it’s restorative for the mind and body, improves posture, strengthens the spine, arms, wrists, Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen, firms the glutes, the list goes on…

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Pigeon Pose

Tricky for some, but a grower, so give it time and use appropriate bolsters under the bent leg glute. It opens the hip joints and lengthens the hip flexors, increasing flexibility. Stretches the thighs, glutes and piriformis muscles. Extends the groin and psoas. Improves posture, alignment and overall suppleness. Lessens or alleviates sciatic pain and diminishes lower back pain a stiffness.

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If you like the sound of yoga on your holiday and/or have any questions, please do get in touch with Rose at info@bonnesantealps.com or rose@bonnesantealps.com

Disclaimer:
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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