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The Yin and the Yang of winter sport

The Yin and the Yang of winter sport



For many, Winter time brings with it a promise of speeding down steep, freshly snow-covered slopes in the Alps. Skiers as well as snowboarders know just how important it is to prepare the body well for these challenging days in the snow.

Yoga is the ideal training for every skiing season. Where skiing is fast and risky, yoga is slow and thoughtful. The two sports’ philosophies diverge, yet the physical demands of skiing call out for the counter movements of yoga.

Perhaps the biggest benefit yoga can bring to your skiing is injury prevention. Skiing asks a lot from the body &mdash cold muscles are called upon to perform a variety of functions, while dexterity, balance, and high levels of concentration are also a must. For those skiers who hit the slopes sporadically, these athletic requisites are often too tough, and they can end up injured and disillusioned with the sport.
Yoga teaches flexibility, balance, and the way to improve concentration. The movement and positions required in yoga can benefit skiers as well as snowboarders and help reduce the physical demands put on the body by the sport. By observing your body’s imbalances, brought on by the particular movements of skiing/snowboarding, and employing a yoga program to bring your body into a state of equilibrium, you can avert injury and enjoy the sport season after season.

Here are six yoga poses without which you shouldn’t go on a skiing vacation anymore. Use these poses for training, to warm up and cool down as well; if anything, it’ll give you an excuse to hang out in the lodge that much longer


1. Tadasana / Mountain Pose


Mountain pose is designed to help you find the center of your balance when you are in the standing position and also helps to strengthen your ankles and curves of your feet.

Stand with the bases of your big toes touching, heels slightly apart (so that your second toes are parallel). Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. Rock back and forth and side to side. Gradually reduce this swaying to a standstill, with your weight balanced evenly on the feet.

Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps, without hardening your lower belly. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches, then imagine a line of energy all the way up along your inner thighs to your groins, and from there through the core of your torso, neck, and head, and out through the crown of your head. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and lift the pubis toward the navel.

Press your shoulder blades into your back, then widen them across and release them down your back. Without pushing your lower front ribs forward, lift the top of your sternum straight toward the ceiling. Widen your collarbones. Hang your arms beside the torso.

Balance the crown of your head directly over the center of your pelvis, with the underside of your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, and the tongue wide and flat on the floor of your mouth. Soften your eyes.

Tadasana is usually the starting position for all the standing poses. But it’s useful to practice Tadasana as a pose in itself. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing easily.


2. Utkatasana / Chair Pose


Strengthens the core and the knee joints, and is even more intense than mountain pose for training your upright balance. Utkatasana mimics the posture of skiing without the danger of falling, so this is the perfect strengthener for the legs and related muscles.

Stand in Tadasana. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or join the palms.

Exhale and bend your knees, trying to take the thighs as nearly parallel to the floor as possible. The knees will project out over the feet, and the torso will lean slightly forward over the thighs until the front torso forms approximately a right angle with the tops of the thighs. Keep the inner thighs parallel to each other and press the heads of the thigh bones down toward the heels.

Firm your shoulder blades against the back. Take your tailbone down toward the floor and in toward your pubis to keep the lower back long.

Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out of this pose straighten your knees with an inhalation, lifting strongly through the arms. Exhale and release your arms to your sides into Tadasana.


3. Utthita Hasta Padangustasana / Extended Hand-to-Toe Balance Pose


A super-intense balance pose that also strengthens all the small tendons and muscles that support your ankles, knees, and hip joints. Use a belt as a prop and a wall for support if necessary. This pose should be done after warming up the body.

From Tadasana, bring your left knee toward your belly.

Reach your left arm inside the thigh, cross it over the front ankle, and hold the outside of your left foot. If your hamstrings are tight, hold a strap looped around the left sole.

Firm the front thigh muscles of the standing leg, and press the outer thigh inward.

Inhale and extend the left leg forward. Straighten the knee as much as possible. If you’re steady, swing the leg out to the side. Breathe steadily; breathing takes concentration, but it helps you balance.

Hold for 30 seconds, then swing the leg back to center with an inhale, and lower the foot to the floor with an exhale. Repeat on the other side for the same length of time.


4. Purvottansana / Upward Plank Pose


This helps realign the spine and strengthens the arms, wrists, and legs, helping to combat muscular imbalance.

Sit in Dandasana with your hands several inches behind your hips and your fingers pointing forward. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, big toes turned inward, heels at least a foot away from your buttocks.

Exhale, press your inner feet and hands down against the floor, and lift your hips until you come into a reverse tabletop position, torso and thighs approximately parallel to the floor, shins and arms approximately perpendicular.

Without losing the height of your hips, straighten your legs one at a time. Lift your hips still higher without hardening your buttocks. Press your shoulder blades against your back torso to support the lift of your chest.

Without compressing the back of your neck, slowly drop your head back.

Hold for 30 seconds, then sit back down in Dandasana with an exhale. Repeat a couple of times.


5. Marichyasana A / Sage Marichi Pose


Stretches and strengthens the spine and shoulders, which helps with muscular imbalances and strengthens the legs and hip joints.

Sit in Dandasana. Bend your left knee and place the foot on the floor, with the heel as close to the left sitting bone as possible. Keep the right leg strong and rotated slightly inward, grounding the head of the thighbone into the floor. Press the back of the right heel and the base of the big toe away from the pelvis. Make sure the inner left thigh presses firmly against the left side of the torso.

As a preparation for the full pose, twist your torso to the right and press the back of the left shoulder against the inside of the left knee. Use this leverage to lengthen the left side of the torso along the thigh. Then gently unwind and face forward.

Reach your left arm forward and rotate it inwardly, so the thumb points to the floor and the palm faces out to the left. As you reach the left arm forward, lengthen your torso forward and snuggle the left shin into the armpit. Then on an exhalation, sweep the forearm around the outside of the leg. The left hand will press against the outside of the left thigh or buttock.

With another exhalation, sweep the right arm around behind your back. Clasp the right wrist in the left hand. Exhale and extend your torso forward from the groins, keeping the lower belly long. Lower the front torso as closely as possible to the right leg. Be sure the shoulders don’t scrunch up into the ears; draw the shoulders blades actively down your back.

Stay in position for 30 seconds to a minute, then come up as you inhale. Repeat on the other side for the same length of time.


6. Supta Baddha Konasana / Goddess Pose


(Don’t worry, men, it works just as well for you.)

This is a lovely restorative pose after being upright all day, and will help relieve hip tightness from all that forward motion and turning during your ski session.

Sitting up, fold your feet in, the soles of your feet touching, and let your knees fall to the side, as if you’re in a “butterfly” stretch. Exhale and lower your back torso toward the floor, first leaning on your hands. Once you are leaning back on your forearms, use your hands to spread the back of your pelvis and release your lower back and upper buttocks through your tailbone. Bring your torso all the way to the floor, supporting your head and neck on a blanket roll or bolster if needed.

Lay your arms on the floor, angled at about 45 degrees from the sides of your torso, palms up.
The natural tendency in this pose is to push the knees toward the floor in the belief that this will increase the stretch of the inner thighs and groins. But especially if your groins are tight, pushing the knees down will have just the opposite of the intended effect: The groins will harden, as will your belly and lower back. Instead, imagine that your knees are floating up toward the ceiling and continue settling your groins deep into your pelvis. As your groins drop toward the floor, so will your knees.

To start, stay in this pose for one minute. Gradually extend your stay anywhere from five to 10 minutes. To come out, use your hands to press your thighs together, then roll over onto one side and push yourself away from the floor, head trailing the torso.

So, with some careful preparation, planning and a bit of patience you will be ready for your mountain-top holiday, pain free!


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