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Flexibility Test: How Flexible are You?

Samantha Lefave for Fitness Magazine and Tiffany Cruikshank share a flexibility test to help you determine how to improve your overall flexibility and yoga practice.

How Flexible Are You?

Whether you’re a regular yogi or someone who struggles to remember to stretch, flexibility is a key component of a well-rounded fitness routine. So it’s important to squeeze it in. That said, everyone’s range differs. “Different people have different bony structures, so nobody is going to feel the same stretch the exact same way, and not everyone is going to naturally have the same range of motion and that’s okay,” says Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and author of Meditate Your Weight“The most important part is that you are taking the time to stretch, and that you maintain that sense of elasticity and pliability in the muscles.” To see where you’re at—and where you may need to focus your practice—go through these five tests that test flexibility from head to toe.
Click here to read the full article from Fitness Magazine.

The Neurobiology of Pain and Yoga as its Medicine

As Yoga teachers, we will often have students who struggle with pain. It is not our job to diagnose or treat. However, it is our role to support, nurture and protect the student from suffering.  As well as facilitate a place for growth of the physical, psychosocial and spiritual being. This can feel like an impossible task when pain is a complaint. Especially when the pain is one that is persistent, irritable and sensitive. We all know students with these pains the ones that are made worse by “everything” and made better by “nothing”. My purpose with this article is to shed just a little light on the topic of pain and the neurobiology behind it.

Neurobiology of Pain

The human body and brain are directly connected through the nervous system. Containing 400 different nerves that if stretched end to end would extend 45 miles. These nerves sit at a resting level of excitement, ready at every moment to communicate necessary information from the peripheral (body) to the central system (brain). Each nerve contains a series of receptor sites. These sites are specifically sensitive to changes in the internal environment such as mechanical, chemical, temperature and touch.

To the surprise of many, no nerve in the body or brain contain receptors specific for pain. Instead, the nerves are armed with something called Nociceptors directly translated these are danger receptors. Nociceptors will fire along with the other receptors if any of the changes detected are severe enough that the body has a potential of harm. The nerves will send the messages of sensation to the brain via the spinal cord. The brain receives the messages and interprets it with a series of complex events involving multiple cortical regions to determine if said event is indeed dangerous.

If the brain believes that danger is imminent, then a painful experience will be expressed. If the brain decides this is not a place that requires action, pain will not be produced. This might sound confusing but it is really no different than the process used by all of our senses. For example, you do not have vision receptors in your eyes. You have light receptors. It is the brain that produces the visual experience. Evidence has shown us that nociception is neither required nor enough for pain to occur.

Case Study

Have a look at this simplified case example. A 48-year-old female student comes to you for a private session with the report of shoulder pain.

Her pain has been present for multiple months and she cannot recall a mechanism of injury. She has seen doctors and therapists and they have all told her nothing is actually wrong with the shoulder. Maybe bursitis or tendonitis but her MRI is clear.  She has been offered injections and medications but has declined. She is choosing an alternative path.

You applaud her for this and begin your yoga medicine intake. Her range of motion and strength appear normal. Her resting posture is quite good. The mechanics during standing asanas are good. Chatarunga alignment is good. Hmm, but she is in pain and many of the motions you ask her to perform are done with a grimace and apprehension.

At this stage, you might begin to wonder if you can actually help her. You can, with just a little bit of knowledge. I would recommend requesting permission to discuss her case with her primary care provider to know you have all the necessary medical facts.

Reminders About Pain

All individuals with pain can benefit from these bits of knowledge.

  1. Pain Is Normal
  2. Pain is simply the body’s alarm system
  3. The role of pain is to communicate actual or perception of threat
  4. Pain commands action in order to promote survival
  5. Pain, regardless of how long it has been present, how severe it is or if an injury has occurred or not, is always an output of the brain or central nervous system
  6. Tissue damage is neither sufficient nor necessary for pain to be experienced
  7. Hurt and harm are not the same.


You then as a yoga teacher are not protecting the shoulder in this scenario but rather the central and peripheral nervous systems. In medical terms, this individual could most likely be classified as someone who has central sensitivity, not mechanical dysfunction.

You might be thinking, great, but what do I do with that??

Energy goes where attention is given. You need to facilitate a place of safety for the nervous system. Knowledge of the human pain system comes first (see the 7 points above) then you put it into practice.


How’s this for a practice starter?

Have her place one hand on the belly and one hand on the heart and begin to breathe a little deeper.

This simple act can be like a self-hug, assuring the nervous system you got this, and there is no need to suffer or protect. After creating a greater sense of awareness and connection to her breath, you could begin a gentle seated meditation. Bringing in the ability to be aware of a variety of sensations without the need to react to them. Visualization of movements or positions of the arm that tend to elicit pain can be utilized to practice this idea of observing the sensation without reaction and with the security of mind that harm is absolutely not present even if hurt is.

Once these steps are mastered, transition your client into a moving meditation or asana practice. Remember to keep the conscious presence on the breath and let the body naturally begin to take shapes. If sensations of discomfort present themselves, challenge her to come back to the practice of observation, awareness of safety and letting go of the need to overprotect.

Following these 3 simple steps can begin to desensitize the nervous system:

  1. Return to the breath
  2. Awareness of safety
  3. Movement without the need to protect,

It should not take too long to see a shift in the student’s pain patterns and complaints. It may take a long time for the pain itself to completely resolve but the functional ability and movement tolerance will progress with gentle facilitation.

For further reading I recommend, Explain Pain, Butler and Moseley. And Therapeutic Neuroscience Education, Louw and Puentedura.

by Marnie Hartman, PT, DPT, CSCS, RYT.

Interview with Shannon Paterson, RYT-500

Shannon Paterson, RYT-500, is a yoga therapeutics instructor who completed her Yoga Medicine 500HR certification at the end of December 2015. We interviewed her to find out more about her experience as a student in our teacher training program and how she’s using her knowledge and experience to serve her community in Vail, Colorado.


1. If you teach privates – what kind of people do you work with, why?

I live in Vail, Colorado, which where many Olympic athletes come to train. This makes it a unique athletic bubble, and I find that I teach a lot of private classes to athletes. Especially those who have undergone surgery(ies).  Afterwards, they’re deemed as “graduated” by their Physical Therapist and then advised to do Yoga.  This is where my YM  knowledge really kicks in. Often times they’re still recovering, and I find that they also have a lot of other stuff going on in their bodies from their years of sports training; so I also get to work with a lot of imbalances.  It also gives me the opportunity to teach them some yogic head game tricks so they’re mentally stronger when they return to their normal sports routines and competitions.

2. Have you had any remarkable examples of yoga as medicine with your students?

Most definitely!  There are several. My favourite example is a student of mine who used to be a competitive “Snowboarder Cross” racer, who is now a Snowcat Supervisor for Vail.  Between her previous injuries and her job grooming our ski runs she was suffering some pretty severe back pain.  Her PT recommended me to her and after about 10 Privates she had cut her pain half and became a regular yogi in my classes.

3.  How has your training with Yoga Medicine helped you to better serve your community?

My 500 Hr YM training has really opened up more possibility not only for me but has helped me create more opportunities for my students to find their optimal health.  I love that I’m able to teach to so many different body types and yogic needs!  With yoga gaining more and more popularity I find that we have so many students from our community coming to class not necessarily to do a Handstand but because they want the therapeutic health benefits, they want the competitive edge in their sport and more importantly; they want to learn the science behind why it’s so beneficial.

4. What are some highlights of your training?

I think the biggest highlight of my training has been finding my “YM Clan”, as I call it.  A clan of yoga teachers who truly want to heal with yoga and who are so amazingly supportive, authentic, and creative about how we, as teachers, can spread the YM love. When I look back over the past 2 1/2 years of training though; I think the most magical moment was meditating in Sevilla, Spain with this beautifully vibrant colorful sunrise each morning and realizing how infinite my talent as a teacher really is.  Oh!  And being chosen as Lulu’s preferred human lap pillow in Napa!

5. What did you love learning the most & why?

Out of all my modules; the “Yoga for Athletes” was the most eye-opening. It really helped me relate more to my students as a teacher since I was armed in how to teach to their sport.  I loved taking the anatomy modules too because they really empowered me to work more with sports injuries.  I have so many athletes now, some of which are sponsored Pro’s; that will come to me for a “drive-by” consultation and ask me to fix them so they can be ready for their next competition.  It’s so rewarding to see them buying into Yoga as Medicine and then going out and crushing it!

Eccentric Hamstring Training: Fire Up Your Forward Fold

By Jenni Tarma.

Here’s Part 2 on how to build eccentric strength in the hamstrings! Eccentric exercises are fantastic for injury prevention and boosting metabolism. They are even more effective at increasing strength and muscle fibre recruitment than traditional concentric work. Eccentric exercises are also far more potent for creating functional mobility than passive stretching, which, while useful for relieving acute tension, doesn’t actually create any permanent change in muscles’ length, or their ability to function in a lengthened position. If you’d like a refresher on what eccentric contractions are, and an asana example on how to get your hamstrings working eccentrically, take a look at Part 1 before proceeding.

Eccentric Stretch in Hip Flexion

Now that we’ve got the basics down and hopefully have a good sense of what an eccentric stretch feels like in real life, let’s find some ways to incorporate this action into a yoga practice. An opportunity for eccentric work presents itself whenever the hips are in flexion. In this instance, we’ll also want the legs to be as straight as possible. This causes significant lengthening in the hamstrings. We also want to avoid excessive rounding in the lumbar, which can allow very stiff students to inadvertently bypass the hamstring stretch altogether. While seated forward folds cover all these bases, they tend to be quite challenging to hold with good form for most athletes. So we’ll go with something a little more forgiving: Uttanasana, or standing forward bend.

Most people will benefit from having a couple of blocks handy for this. A mirror (or second pair of eyes) is also useful. Eccentric exercises are definitely on the more challenging end of the movement spectrum, so I wouldn’t recommend this for beginner-level yogis or athletes. But if you’re a teacher, or teaching advanced students, this is an interesting way to spice up a pose that’s traditionally associated with release and relaxation. And it’s challenging enough that three or so rounds should suffice!



  1. From standing, come into Uttanasana by hinging at the hip and draping your chest down towards the fronts of your thighs. Position the blocks under your hands at a height that lets you gently lengthen your spine forward, and takes any major effort out of the upper body. Look for a degree of hip flexion which produces a hamstring stretch that feels manageable and sustainable; things are about to get more intense, so resist the temptation to go for a deep stretch just yet.
  2. Your hips, knees and ankles should be vertically stacked up on top each other. Check the mirror, or have a friend correct your stance. Many people automatically move their hips back in space in Uttanasana to counterbalance the weight and forward movement of the upper body. This also instinctively avoids the much more demanding task of using the hamstrings to hold themselves in place instead.
  3. Maintain this alignment, and actively drive down into the floor with your heels.
  4. Maintain the grounding movement in the lower leg, then eccentrically contract the hamstrings: imagine that you’re attempting to lift the femurs up away from your knees and into your hip sockets. There will be no actual movement, but the sensation in the hamstrings should be something like a stretch and a contraction, happening simultaneously. Hold for as long as feels manageable.
  5. Carefully release and take a break in Uttanasana by letting the upper body relax and gently walking out the feet. If you’re teaching, cue a couple of deep inhales and exhales; most people focus so intently during this exercise that they forget to breathe. Take another round if you like, or try incorporating into sun salutations!

About the Author

Jenni_628Jenni Tarma is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, writer, runner and CrossFitter. She specializes in making the yoga practice accessible and beneficial to athletes. She loves learning about anatomy and is currently studying for her 500hr certification with Yoga Medicine. You can find her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram @jennitarma.

Eccentric Muscle Training: Hamstring Strength

by Jenni Tarma.

The notion of muscles working eccentrically can be tricky to grasp even for seasoned athletes. It includes two seemingly opposing actions: a muscle lengthening and contracting at the same time. Eccentric contractions, though, are occurring constantly during even the simplest actions, helping to make our movements smooth and controlled. Training muscles to function well in eccentric scenarios is a very effective way to build both strength and functional mobility. Eccentric exercises are of particular relevance to athletes looking to enhance performance and increase functional, sport-specific flexibility.

Why Train with Eccentric Movements?

In order to better understand how eccentric contractions work, let’s focus on one set of muscles: the hamstrings. As both extensors of the hip and flexors of the knee, the hamstrings generate power crucial to athletic performance and are also a frequent site of chronic tension and injury. Hip extension and knee flexion are both achieved by the hamstrings contracting concentrically, meaning that the muscles shorten to create the joint action.

Conversely, when the hip flexes and/or the knee extends, the hamstrings don’t simply go loose and floppy; instead, the hamstrings continue to engage at the same time as they lengthen. This is an eccentric contraction. In the context of hip flexion, the hamstrings’ eccentric contraction provides a sort of light, steady braking action that counters the concentric effort of the hip flexors in the heel strike phase of the gait cycle. Another way to think about it: the eccentric action of the hamstrings in hip flexion is what makes the difference between your leg lifting smoothly and steadily, rather than just being flung out in front of you.

Risks of Eccentric Overload

With this in mind, it hopefully becomes easier to understand why the hamstrings and their tendons are vulnerable to injury. This is especially true in high-level sports that require the hamstrings to function eccentrically at a much higher level of intensity than most of us encounter in normal life. Some examples of this include situations that demand hip extension under extreme load. For example, an Olympic weightlifter pressing up from a weighted squat or a sprinter overstriding with a combination of hip flexion and knee extension.

In other words, the hamstrings become vulnerable when tasked with generating power in a lengthened position. Injuries happen when the muscles are eccentrically overloaded, in which case a tear in either the muscle or the tendon can occur. It’s also worth noting that most athletes are incredibly tight initially, which can add to the risk of acute injury. While athletes need high levels of muscular tension for good performance, in their hamstrings and elsewhere, it’s easy to see how too much tension can make them prone to injury, too.

Minimizing Injury

So, how do we minimize the risk of injury? As we’ve discovered, stretching the hamstrings for the sake of flexibility alone isn’t that useful, since what we really need is for them to lengthen and still have the ability to contract and generate power. This is exactly what eccentric hamstring exercises are for! The more familiar the contracting-while-lengthening scenario becomes, neurologically speaking, the more the athlete will reduce the risk of a hamstring blowout during the most demanding parts of their workout.

Below is an effective way to start building eccentric hamstring strength. It should be noted that the intensity in sensation is in direct proportion to the effectiveness of this exercise. Most people agree that it feels, shall we say, “challenging”. I would not recommend this for beginner-level athletes or yogis.



  1. Start in a low lunge, and scoot your hips back as you straighten your front leg to come to Ardha Hanumanasana. The hip of your front leg is now flexed, and the hamstrings are in a lengthened position. You should be feeling a stretch in the back of the thigh. You can place blocks under your hands if it prevents you from hunching forward. This will ensure that the stretch is isolated to the hamstrings, rather than letting it go into the low back. If the hamstrings are very tight, keep a little bend in the knee.
  2. Flex your front foot, and firmly press the heel down into the ground.
  3. Without actually moving the foot, attempt to drag the heel towards the back knee. In addition to the hamstring stretch, you should now also feel the muscle contracting.
  4. This is usually a great time to remind your student(s) to breathe, and maybe ease up a little if the stretch is very intense. Many athletes/ sensation junkies will work way too hard here; remind them that it’s best to stay at roughly 80% of what their maximum effort would feel like.
  5. While you’re here, explore sensations around the hamstrings. Maintain all the above engagements in your front leg, and carefully roll onto the outer heel so that the toes turn slightly outwards; you’ll feel the stretch move into the inner hamstrings. Roll onto the inner heel to bring the stretch into the outer hamstrings.

Finishing the Stretch:

  1. When you’re done, slowly come forward into a lunge, and step into Uttanasana. Take your time here, paying attention to differences between the right and left sides. The hamstrings you worked on probably feel noticeably more open and loose. (teacher tip: most athletes absolutely love it when they can feel immediate results from a stretch or exercise- play it up). It’s also useful to notice the breadth of the sensation. The entire back of the stretched thigh should feel pretty warm, which is a cool way to visualize the physical placement and width of the hamstring muscles.
  2. Repeat on the other side!

Jenni_628Jenni Tarma is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, writer, runner and CrossFitter. She specializes in making the yoga practice accessible and beneficial to athletes. She loves learning about anatomy and is currently studying for her 500hr certification with Yoga Medicine. You can find her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram @jennitarma.

Winter Sports Recovery: 5 Essential Yoga Poses

Check out Alice Blunden’s new article about winter sports recovery. These poses are great for skiers, snowboarders, skaters, and anyone else feeling a little tight this winter.

“In an ideal world, we would be able to click our fingers and be transported to the snowy mountains whenever we wished so that we could maintain the strength and fitness that skiing and other winter sports require. But until that is possible, here are five yoga poses that can be practiced before and after your session on the mountain to help improve your flexibility, strengthen, and ability to focus.

1. Reclining Big Toe Pose

Our hamstrings are an area that tends to tighten up and over time, this can limit your freedom of movement, potentially resulting in lower back pain and knee injuries.

This pose is a simple way to stretch this muscle. Lie on your back with both legs straight and feet flexed so your toes are pointing upwards. Raise one leg and hold onto the back of your thigh or your big toe. You want it to be relaxing so if you find that your leg starts shaking, just ease off slightly so that you can find a softness in the pose, maybe even bend your raised knee slightly if your hamstrings are particularly tight. Stay in this position for one to three minutes per leg.”

Alice Louise Blunden shows off a pose from yoga for winter athletes.

Read the full article here!

About Alice Louise Blunden. Alice Louise Blunden is a Yoga Medicine senior teacher and assistant to Tiffany Cruikshank. She is currently completing her 500 hours and working towards her 1000-hour advanced Yoga Medicine teacher training. As well as teaching yoga in studios across London, she is the founder of The Yoga Project UK, a business that connects yoga teachers with schools across the UK.

Hip Stability: 4 Ways to Build Strength + Prevent Injury

Jenni Tarma for Yoga Journal. Jenni is currently pursuing her 500HR certification with Yoga Medicine.

Tight or open, your hips need to be strong for injury-free movement. Learn how to build more stability in common yoga poses.

Stability in the hips is crucial for athletes—and everyone else: The hips’ primary function is to bear weight, and we need them to stabilize the upper body, support the lower limbs, and absorb shock from movements such as running and jumping.

The gluteus medius is the hip’s primary stabilizer. It originates from the outer, top rim of the iliac crest and inserts at the top of the thigh bone, covering the outer hip, and maintains stability in the joint with the help of the gluteus minimus. A lax, unsupported hip joint slides around unnecessarily, irritating the soft tissues and increasing the likelihood of alignment problems and overuse injuries elsewhere in the body. Simply put, the role of the gluteus medius is to minimize excessive movement by keeping the thighbone firmly integrated into the hip socket.

4 Ways to Build Hip Strength + Stability

Standing and balancing poses can build both strength and stability in this muscle—when practiced with the appropriate engagement. Let’s take a closer look at how to turn on the gluteus medius in a few common poses.


Since we want to build strength in the widest possible range of motion, it’s smart to precede these poses with a few stretches to lengthen the relevant muscles. Try Gomukhasana or Pigeon Pose.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Back to basics! Symmetry in the hips is key for maintaining a good range of motion, and this easy variation on Mountain Pose makes it easy to identify a weakness on either side. Stand with one foot on a block and the other floating.

DON’T Let the hip of the standing leg sag out to the side.

DO Strongly engage the outer hip of the standing leg to bring the pelvis level. It’s useful to place the hands on the hips for reference; I also like to visualize the front points of my pelvis lining up horizontally.

Repeat a couple of times on each leg, noting whether one side is having to work harder than the other.

Read the rest of the article. 


About Jenni Tarma

Jenni Tarma is a Los Angeles–based yoga teacher, runner and Crossfitter. She really, really likes to move, loves teaching yoga to Crossfit athletes, as well as leading traditional vinyasa-based classes. She’s currently studying with Sage Rountree to complete her Yoga For Athletes certification and Yoga Medicine for her 500HR certification. Find her on: Instagram: @jennitarma and www.jennitarma.com

Hatha Yoga Class:”15 Minute Rejuvenator”

Check out  Yoga Medicine founder Tiffany’s new Hatha yoga class “15 Minute Rejuvenator” now up on YogaGlo!

Click here to watch the video.

“A quick rejuvenator when you’re short on time. A strong flow with some hops and consistent movement to get your blood pumping. Practice some inversions to invigorate your body & mind. Get your circulation flowing to give you a nice shot of energy. You’ll get right into the flow so take your own warm up and cool down as needed or use this class on its own for a quick pick me up.”

No props needed.

Still from Hatha yoga class: "15 minute rejuvanator" on Yogaglo

Yoga for Skiers: NamaStayWild on the Ski Hill

As a local Yoga Teacher and athlete here in Vail, Colorado since 2002; every year I see the excitement build for the opening of what is always touted as yet another “epic” ski season. With the influx of seasonal employees, residents, and tourists; our little ski town blows up each winter as if it were a college campus and suddenly, mountain bikes are put away and my yoga classes are chock-full of eager skiers and snowboarders. When I ask if there are “any requests” the same answer echoes time and again for the need to stretch from all of the Winter Conditioning fitness classes that pop up throughout the valley.

Even the Yoga industry is taking note and now offering classes with catchy titles such as “Yoga for Winter Sports” and “Snowga”. However, after a recent conversation with a phenomenal female athlete and local rock climbing guide; she privately confessed that “I’ve been going to the Yoga for Winter Sports but other than holding chair pose longer; I don’t really see how yoga is helping me prepare for the ski season?” After earning my 500 RYT degree with an emphasis on Yoga for Athletes I immediately could empathize with her inquiry.

Whether you are a yogi or not; “Motion is Lotion” and any movement is always a good way to start prepping for the ski season. Below are five tips and steps that any athlete or yoga teacher can follow to help get ready for that first lift ride.

1. Get your Ski Legs on!

The majority of your power as a skier and a snowboarder comes down to your legs and core. Winter Conditioning classes are great for strength building, balance, and explosive movements. However, yoga can be a great addendum and can bring an eccentric contractional approach to these muscle groups integrating strength and length at the same time which are vital for skiers and snowboarders so as to avoid sports injuries. Even the most explosive and strong skier will cross their tips while bouncing through a Double Diamond mogul field and the best snowboarder will accidentally run over a death cookie kicked up from the snowcat and catch an edge.

When moments like these happen on the ski hill that’s when your Yoga training comes into play. Your muscles’ ability to lengthen while being in a contracted state can help avoid painful muscle pulls, thus enhancing your muscles, tendons, and ligaments ability to provide stability for your joints. As a yogi, you can bring more awareness and focus on smoothing out the transitions between poses which will work your balance and strengthen and lengthen your muscles at the same time.

2. Learn to squeeze your lower glutes – not your upper glutes!

When looking at the Glute Maximus you need to imagine it as if it were two muscles; even though in reality it’s one. The lower half of your glutes are your biggest supporter of your knees and can be a tremendous asset in avoiding knee pain. Why? Because the more aggressively you fly down the hill the more your skis and snowboard pick up “chatter”. A term used to describe the amount of vibration your body absorbs from bumpy snow and thus translates most often into your knee and hip joints.

If you learn to squeeze the lower half of your glutes these big muscles step in to absorb the chatter and can help salvage your knees, hips and spine from pain later on. Conversely, if you tuck your tush too much though, and squeeze the upper half, you’ll only be clenching around your sacrum and this can increase low back pain; which you want to avoid.

3. Warm-Up dynamically.

Although stretching is good when you get on the ski hill until you warm up and get your body temperature accustomed to being outside all day in 30-degree temps; it’s hard to get your muscles to lengthen. Dynamic warm-up movements like Skaters back and forth or lunges with a jump in between can warm up your muscles quickly and increase your range of motion. Then take a warm-up run or two and afterwards add in some of your favourite yoga stretches for 5 or 10 minutes.

4. Don’t underestimate the role of your upper body.

Although it’s true that your legs and core are your biggest assets when it comes to longevity on the hill; I’m astonished each year after the first week or two of ski season how many students request heart openers. It’s easy to forget how incredibly strong you need to be to push your entire body weight up off of the ground if you’re a snowboarder and how hard it is to pull your entire body weight forward with a pair of ski poles planted into the snow.

Pectorals and rhomboids regardless of whether you’re a “two-planker” or not; always get worked. Add in some extra arm balances or an extra push-up from chaturanga into your practice to build strength. If you’re sore; I’m a firm believer in Restorative poses where you allow these muscles to return to a lengthened and passive state such as lying supported on your back with your arms stretched open in Goddess pose with a bolster or a large pillow at the end of your day to let your muscles recover.

5. Do not ignore your extremities.

Every year over the course of the ski season the most overlooked part of the body that my students request are calves, forearms, and their neck. We often forget the big requests that we make as athletes on these smaller muscles of the body but that provide so much important functionality in skiing and snowboarding. As we progress on the ski hill boots become much tighter, pole plants become more strategic, and our ability to see the skier traffic around us becomes more important as we gain speed.


Ski and snowboard boots both serve a similar purpose; they securely anchor your foot. Which in turn, limits our metatarsal muscles from functioning at their full capacity and then puts the brunt of strength onto the calves. Your calves eventually become overworked, and should you be “ejected” from your bindings, often times your calf muscle is the first muscle to pull. Placing a tennis ball beneath each calf while sitting on the floor for a couple minutes each evening post skiing/snowboarding is a great way to deal with tight calves or and a safe stretch for a pulled calf muscle.


Secondly, forearms are always ignored by Telemarkers and Skiers. Especially with Telemarkers, who are lunging into their ski turn with a flexible boot, planting their ski pole from a lower level than that of a regular skier, and then suddenly rising up with a combination of their bodyweight on their legs and their ski pole; they switch their lead leg. Time, and time again, going all the way down the ski hill for miles this starts to lead to a lot of tight forearm muscles. Starting on all fours, or in Table Top as it’s called in yoga, place the back of one of your arms on the floor while balancing yourself with your other arm, you can take your knee to your forearm on the floor and start to “knead” it with small circles. Be sure to avoid your entire wrist area, however, as these muscles are quite delicate.


Lastly, neck issues arrive more often in Snowboarders, because their head is turned to the side for hours on end since they move down the hill with an open hip stance versus a closed hip stance like that of skiers where their hips are square to the mountain. Placing two tennis balls behind your trapezoids at the outer base of your neck and relaxing your jaw for a few minutes can be immensely relaxing to these tight muscles after a day of riding with your head turned in one direction and a helmet on.

All in all, we love to be on the mountain! The most important thing is to have fun and to remember that your yoga practice should be Your Practice; not the person’s next to you. If you need to linger a little longer on one side than the other; than do so. If you need to modify and make it easier because you skied 30,000 vertical feet the day before; than relax or take an extra Child’s Pose. Yoga is meant to be therapeutic and beneficial; not a game of “Simon Says”. Hopefully, the 5 Tips above can lead you in the right direction of making your yoga practice work for you; so that when you’re out on the white stuff, you’re functioning at your full athletic potential.

by Shannon Patterson, RYT-500.

Shannon Patterson Headshot

In 1999 Shannon took a class named “Equilibrium”; not knowing it was basically a yoga class but at the time the Gym Directors felt the term “yoga” wasn’t fashionable in the fitness industry. After graduating from Michigan State University in 2001 and moving to Chicago it was there that the practice of Yoga really became part of her life. Having been an avid yogi in Vail, Colorado since 2002, in 2010 Shannon finally decided to take her practice to another level and pursued her teaching certification with Baron Baptiste Power Yoga Institute. In October 2010 she completed Level 1 and in May 2011 she completed her Level 2 training thus completing her 200 Hr RYT with Baron Baptiste.

In addition, Shannon also attended the Baptiste “Art of Assisting” 40 Hr training in April 2011 and received her Level 1 Anjali 25 Hr Teacher Training with Julia Clarke in 2012. After receiving her 200 RYT Training she then moved on and earned her 500 Hr RYT with Yoga Medicine.

Shannon’s specialty is Yoga for Athletes and she has several hours of Anatomy training on: Hips, Shoulders, Spine, Myofascial Release & Chinese Medicine. She is continually looking for new inspirations in her free time and has attended classes with Kathryn Budig, Duncan Peak, Janet Stone, Desiree Rumbaugh, Shannon Paige, Cameron Shayne, Gina Caputo, and Rolf Gates. In her classes, Shannon invites you to explore the full potential and freedom with each pose in a way that breaks down the complexity and brings the pose from the ground up. She feels passionate about bringing yogic philosophy and daily inspiration to her class so that students may cultivate their own confidence, spirituality, strength and grace on and off the yoga mat.

Yoga for Sport: Enhance your Training

Headed to yoga on your recovery day? While a sweaty vinyasa or power yoga class sounds like the ideal way to work out the kinks, you may be adding stress to your already taxed body. Learn how best to leverage yoga to enhance your training.

“Recognise that yoga is not your sport. You’re going to yoga to feed your sport. Your goal isn’t to touch your toes.” excerpt from ‘Hit the Mat: Time on the yoga mat should vary depending on where you are in your training cycle’ by Christine Yu.

To read the full article click from Triathlete Magazine here.


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