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Now don’t just pass over this article because the thought of Yoga terrifies you. Perhaps you think it’s just a trend. Is yoga one of those weird cults where they chant? Maybe you have considered trying a class at the gym, but the thought of all those young girls in spandex is slightly intimidating. Perhaps because you have overly tight quadriceps from skiing your whole life, you feel there is no hope. Or maybe you just feel like you’re just too old to try something new like yoga.
Well you are wrong. Yoga is for everyone. Yoga is an amazing tool that has many benefits. It can help your slope riding in so many ways such as improvement in alignment, sharpens your mindfulness and increases your range of motion. Yoga is for all ages, sizes and levels. Through yoga, you may be able to draw awareness to your limitations and move beyond. So, come join me in a little moment of bliss. I began my Yoga journey twelve years ago. Since then, I have discovered its benefits. It keeps me in shape, increases my flexibility, bolsters my strength and improves my balance. Yoga to me is the fountain of youth.
Maybe by now I’ve caught your attention and you might wonder, “How does this relate to skiing or riding?” Alignment, flexibility, balance and strength of the mind and of the body is how. Alignment is defined as the positioning of the skeletal structure to its fullest potential while maintaining muscular balance and distribution of energy. Anatomically speaking, proper skeletal alignment is something that we should all strive for. Proper alignment results in efficient movement. As instructors, we are constantly trying to achieve proper alignment with our own skiing and riding. We’re also constantly trying to improve our student’s alignment. As in skiing, proper alignment in yoga is key to efficient movement and success. In both skiing and yoga, participants continually trying to push their limitations while maintaining alignment and balance. Skiing is a sport where we tend to develop tight areas of the body. We can develop tight hip flexors due to improper alignment. To minimize knee injury it is important to maintain flexibility in the hip flexors and quadricep muscles. By keeping balance in the leg muscle strength, we increase our joint strength. By having over developed quads or hamstrings, we put ourselves at increase risk. Through the yoga poses discussed below, I hope to show you how to maintain and improve this muscular balance, thus reducing the risk of injury. Now there is a lot more to Yoga than just stretching. It also has a component of mindfulness. Mindfulness you say? What is that? Well, it’s like that perfect day, when you get to the mountain, the sun is shining and it has dumped two feet overnight. It is 20 degrees and you are not there to work. You get to the top and you hit your favorite run. You begin to feel light, happy, and aware of all your surroundings. Nothing else matters. The lists, thoughts, emotions and responsibilities all fade to nothing. You are doing what you love in that moment and that is pure joy. Yoga seeks to find that in all that we do. Allowing those thoughts to melt away and taking the time to connect to your true self.
One way we do this is through breath work. The power of the breath is amazing. It is a lot like the wind. It is always there, but maybe not seen or recognized. Taking a few moments to focus your intentions on your breath at the start of each day, or at the beginning of your yoga, can center you. We tend to create busy minds. By bringing awareness to the present moment, just like that perfect ski day, we are able to quiet the monkey mind and feel bliss or joy. Breath work can be great in an exam or tryout situation. Perhaps you are tense or feeling a lot of pressure to perform. You may be lacking focus or confidence. Try taking several deep breaths to calm your nerves and focus all your attention on your breath for several seconds. See how this helps you relax and be in the moment. This may change your tension to intention. With all your intention being focused you will be able to perform your best. Here are a few yoga stretches that any and all snow sports enthusiasts can do at home. Some of these poses are to help release tightness while others are geared towards increasing proprioceptor awareness or balance. Still, others are for strength. These can be done on a yoga mat or your carpet at home. There should never be any pain in any poses. If you experience pain, please stop and modify or move on to the next pose.
Upavishta Konasana (wide leg forward stretch – photo top)
Sit up tall on your mat and open your legs into a V. Deep breath in and exhale forward fold. You can prop your torso up using your hands or elbows. To make it harder, grab you feet on the outside edges or the big toes. This stretch helps out the hamstrings muscle group, the adductors and the low back. The low back can become very tight in skiing. Especially if our skeletal alignment is off. Hold this 3 to 4 minutes.
Malasana (wide leg squat – photo above)
Try keeping your feet facing as forward as possible. You can use a blanket under the heals of the feet to modify. This helps relieve compression of the ankle joint. Draw the pelvis towards the floor and the spine towards the sky. Lift up through the crown of your head, while grounding with gravity through into the pelvis. Squats are great for men and woman. They open up the deep hip rotators and strengthen the spinal muscles. Squats can be held between 3-5 minutes.
Virasana (heros posture – photo above)
This pose is easy for many. Those with tight quads will find it challenging, yet rewarding. If your hips do not reach the ground, use a block or a blanket to put under the pelvis. Keep core muscles engaged! Try not to round the low back. If this is an easy pose for you, lay back in-between your feet, and rest your spine on your mat. This pose is restorative, and can be held for 5 minutes or more. Repeat 3-5 times.
Baddha Konasana (butterfly pose – above)
Gently place the soles of your feet together and let gravity pull your knees towards the floor. You may modify by placing a block under the tailbone to lift the rear pelvis off your mat a bit. To challenge yourself, take a deep breath in and exhale into a forward fold. Be sure to go only as far as you can with a straight back. This helps to release the adductor muscle group. We use the adductors in lateral movements on the snow. This pose can be held 5- 8 minutes if there is no pain in the knees.
Navasana (boat pose – photo above)
Balancing on your SITS bones, begin to raise up both or one legs to eye level. Your knees can be bent to modify or you can hold behind your knees with your hands to modify. For the full poses, simply create a V with body and hold for 5 breaths. Release and repeat 5 times. This pose targets your core strength. Core strength is necessary in many tasks like short radius turns, hop turns, jump entry turns and skating.
Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana (photo above)
This can be done with a block or blanket under the hip with the outstretched leg. By lifting the pelvis on that side you will level it out and feel more even. Use a mat or a blanket so the foot that is turned under does not hurt by digging into the floor. The out stretched leg is lengthening the hamstrings, while the leg that is bent back get a quad stretch. Forward fold over the out stretched legs make this harder. You can reach for the forward foot to bind. The back foot should be facing straight back. Make sure to hold 3 to 4 minutes then switch sides.
Crescent Lunge (photo above)
From standing, step one foot back into a lunge position. Begin by lowering your pelvis towards the ground. To increase your balance and strength, reach the arms and shoulders toward the sky. This helps to open the hip flexors of the back leg. It also helps strengthen the lumbar muscles and the front leg muscles as well.
Urdva Mukha Svanasana (up dog/cobra – photo above )
Come to laying flat on your belly. Begin by pressing all 10 toes into the floor. Bring the hands directly under the shoulders. Roll the shoulders up and back, and gently press your torso up. You may be able to lift off the floor completely. Or, just the chest and belly might come off. Wherever you are, breath five breathes while in the pose. Release down to your belly and repeat two more times. This pose opens the front side of the body and strengthens the lower back.
Ustrasana (camel pose – photo above)
Begin by standing on your knees. Knees are hip distance apart. You can add extra padding under them. Begin by grounding the shins into the floor. Lift up through the heart area, and place your hands on your hips. Next, press the hips forward. Then, if you want more, reach back and grab your heels with your hands. This is a back opener. It lengthens out the core muscles in the belly and those tight hip flexors. Hold for five breaths,
repeat three times.
Natrajasana (dancer – photo above)
For those individuals challenged by balance, this pose can be conducted facing a wall. Stand several feet back from the wall. Find your balance on the standing leg. Root down into the standing foot and toes, as you reach back with the opposite hand and grab the opposite foot or ankle. Begin to lean forward, pushing the foot into the hand, creating a bow shape. This is a back opener and a strong balancing pose. It will help open up the quadriceps. For those using the wall, place your fingertips on the wall to aid in balance as you lean forward.
Utkatasana (chair pose – photo above)
Come to standing at the front of your mat. Inhale. Reach your arms straight up toward the sky. Begin to pull shoulder blades down the spine while keeping arms up. Begin to sink low like you are about to sit in a chair. Tuck the tail bone under and engage your core by pulling the belly button back towards your spine. This is a difficult pose and can be repeated three times. It strengthens the lower spine and core muscle group. This pose assists in proper skiing alignment because the hips have to be over the ankles. This pose can be done at the wall, then gradually wean yourself off of it as you become stronger. Balance and stance are key components of this posture.
After you have completed the poses that feel good for you and your body, take a moment and rest on your back in total relaxation. A few minutes is enough; ten is ideal. Take this quiet time to scan your body and feel any changes. Try to let go of any tension you may be holding onto. Check in with places like your jaw and your neck. Gently begin to melt into your mat and let the thoughts that come into your mind be whisked away like the clouds in the sky. Try to be present in the moment. This is ideal for skiing because it can help calm the mind and focus the thoughts. Yoga helps to teach us to live each moment to the fullest. Yoga aids in alignment, balance, flexibility and strength. With dedication and commitment, snow sports riders of all levels can improve their abilities through yoga. All of the simple poses listed above can be performed safely at home. It is my belief that Yoga and Snowsports have a lot of lateral learning. My goal is to help educate through more body awareness. This can be a great way to start. Enjoy these poses and there may be more to come. Photography and modeling by Angeline Rhett and Tara Seymour. Photos taken at Life Love Yoga in Sisters, Oregon.
by Terry McLeod
In March 2010 I attended the AASI Rider Rally held at Copper Mountain, Colorado. For those who know me this might seem quite strange since I am primarily a skier and have snowboard gear that’s almost as old as the sport itself. However, this year there was a free ski/terrain park group offered for alpine skiers and that is what motivated me to make the long drive halfway across the country to attend.
For those not familiar with it, the Rider Rally is loosely modeled as a National Academy for snowboarders; four days of on-snow clinics, evening events and after hour socials all hosted by members of the National Demonstration Team. This year the indoor sessions were held at Woodward at Copper each evening. This is a new facility that has mats, trampolines, foam pits, skateboard parks, and Snowflex™ for indoor skating, skiing, riding, and jumping. It’s pretty hard to describe how incredible this venue is, and we had the run of it every night. This photo below gives you an overview but for a better idea it’s worth surfing around their website: www.woodwardatcopper.com.
Usually we think of training/educational events as being important because of the topics they cover, the quality of the clinicians, the opportunity to learn new teaching methods and skiing techniques. These are all important and do comprise the largest portion of the information that I came away with, but not far behind were all the conversations and insights that came from hanging around other teachers, trainers, supervisors and managers from resorts all over the country. Whether we were sitting on a chairlift or a bar stool, it was easy to go down the path of “what do you do at your area?” on topics that ranged from line up methods to pay systems, beginner terrain and techniques to staff training and development. Sometimes you ended up feeling like it would be so great to teach at that person’s area because of some cool feature, while at other times it was very encouraging to realize that I didn’t have to go back home and live under the giant corporate thumb that they have to deal with. By the end I was able to come home with at least three different things from these conversations:
Best practices (a team of staff from several departments who confer on terrain park features and design for example).
Dreams of what we can try to develop over the long run (terrain that’s easy to access but out of the way with low-end, progressive beginner jumps and rails).
Appreciation and relief that I’m in a more casual, Northwest, work environment (I don’t pay taxes on the coffee cup I’m given for employee appreciation day).
Returning to the topic of on-snow clinic content, the biggest concept that I left with is how possible and important it is to break down a new trick or feature into very small increments that build on each other and create success at every step along the way. A lot of the freestyle crowd has a fairly go-for-it outlook on sports and it’s easy to get caught up in this when teaching (“here’s a couple pointers, now you just need to commit!”).
Presumably though, the people who are willing or motivated to take a lesson may be somewhat less inclined to just “go big,” after all, they’re coming to us for advice. Either way, when we take the responsibility of guiding people through maneuvers that are challenging for them, we owe it to our students to make it safer and easier than if they were on their own. Here are a couple of outlines as examples.
Whirly birds/Surface 360’s on the snow
Timing the Surface 360
Add minor pop motions
Time the pop movements
Go to a small jump, surface 360 beside the kicker/rolling over the knuckle (no air)
Time the spin to finish on the landing
Time the pop to the knuckle
Straight air off the kicker for speed check,
Time spin and pop with take off.
Obviously it could take some time and several runs to work through all of this, but that time and mileage is what keeps things both safe and successful. Here’s a sample for an “urban on” to a box or rail, where you approach it from one side and use a slightly directional jump rather than coming at it dead center. If students are learning this move they already have some basic box riding skills, so we won’t repeat all of those steps for this progression.
(can also be used for lip slides)
Review the solid stance that you’ll use while sliding the box.
Introduce nose and tail presses as a way to adjust/correct while sliding the box
Adjust your approach to the box so that you’re in line with one side of it, rather than centered
Introduce “directional jumping” for take off
Walk the takeoff of the box from the side that you’ll be jumping from
Approach & takeoff from the side (urban on)
Another obvious fact is that you need to have available and choose appropriate features for learning new tricks. Just like in all snowsports instruction, we need to be on comfortable terrain (features) when introducing new movements and/or maneuvers. There’s nothing wrong with returning to that big, wide flat box in the kiddie park, or that short, flat jump to teach and practice new moves.
In summary, the Rider Rally is another example of an event that serves to inspire on multiple levels and it has provided me with more tools to coach and connect with students in the terrain park environment. I encourage you to move outside of your normal training group and take advantage of the many higher end training events that are available, whether it’s through PSIA/AASI regionally or nationally, or other organizations like USSA, USASA, National Sports Center for the Disabled, National Ski Patrol, American Avalanche Institute, American Mountain Guides Association, or anything else.[connections_list id=12 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]
by Chris Thompson, PSIA-NW Certification Vice President
All disciplines – alpine, snowboard, telemark, track and adaptive – have an approved exam program. Upgrades are implemented on a regular basis to ensure that the exam programs meet the current PSIA/AASI National Standards. The Alpine exam has most recently been upgraded with a newly revised PSIA-NW Certification Guide which was made available on-line at psia-nw.org in early November. Additionally the Snowboard National Standards have been updated.
Certification is designed to test levels of achievement; from your early skiing days and through your first class assignment as a new instructor and beyond. The skiing module is a test but should be viewed as a fun challenge, not unlike skiing with your peer group at your home area. In the teaching module, you are not only sharing information with your peers, helping them to understand what and how to teach, but also improving their skiing performance at the same time. Most snowsports schools as well as the division offer “exam prep” clinics. Realistically, all clinics are skiing/riding and teaching improvement opportunities and as a result should be seen as having an underlying exam focus.
The exams are based on National Standards developed and adopted by the National organization. These standards can be found in each of the PSIA-NW Certification Guides, at the psia-nw.org website or PSIA/AASI National website at thesnowpros.org.
In addition to the National Standards, each of the nine divisions, from East to West, utilizes the skills and teaching matrix, visual cues, etc. as resource exam material. Divisions typically break down the exam into modules – a written test, a skiing test and teaching/professional knowledge test.
To meet the needs of our predominantly part time snowsports instructors, the Northwest division has opted to host the exams in an accessible and affordable manner; a one-hour written exam module; a one-day skiing/riding module and a one-day teaching and professional knowledge module. Pre exam clinics, while strongly recommended, are not required. Once you have passed the written module, you are ready for the skiing/riding and teaching modules.
The spring exam series, held at one or more resorts in each region of the division, provides ample opportunity for testing. The exam dates are listed at psia-nw.org in a calendar or list view, and in the 2010/11 Season Guide which was published in the Fall 2010 issue of the NW Snowsports Instructor newsletter. Please refer to the Season Guide or website to plan your skiing/riding and clinic needs accordingly.
The skiing/riding and teaching modules each are lead by two examiners. In addition, you may have an examiner in training or a training director observing the exam process. This past season, we restructured the alpine teaching module enabling the two examiners to stay together throughout the day to ensure consistency, where both examiners are able to observe each candidate during the entire exam day. Although it is recommended that you prepare for two long teaching segments, you may only have one long segment, with a shortened movement analysis directed practice teaching opportunity.
This season, the primary focus has been the alpine skiing module – now listed as Skiing Skills & Technical Understanding in the Alpine Certification Guide. The Level II and Level III skiing modules continue with the same number of skiing tasks as the past few seasons. However, the tasks are now broken down into Skiing tasks and Exercises & Versatility tasks. This was implemented to help you understand that the latter were selected to test your overall skill blend but are also there for you to use as skiing improvement and skill development training tools. Once again, the tasks are used to evaluate a candidate’s mastery of skill blending, and depending on conditions of the day, not all tasks may necessarily be performed.
Also, there is now a technical component to the skiing module. As noted in the exam guide: “During the day, the examiners and examinees will discuss the technical skiing elements to ensure understanding. This does not influence the overall grade but provides an opportunity to rehearse the understanding of each of the selected tasks enabling performance as well as goal setting.”
This summer the alpine certification guide was rewritten to give it more of an educational focus as well as a “how to” guide. Redundancies have been removed; each chapter is more specific to the level. One of the major changes is in the Reference Chapter which is now Reference and Resource. One element of change is the addition of a list of proven exercises that are linked to a document that describes the exercise and lists the primary skill or skills affected.
Currently there are twenty alpine examiners, nine snowboard examiners, four telemark examiners, four track examiners and two adaptive examiners in the NW. These examiners, Technical Team members and all of the Divisional Clinic Leaders are well versed in the exam process and are there to help you succeed. In addition to all the written materials, these dedicated individuals are great resources, and are always eager to answer your certification related questions. Simply go to psia-nw.org, navigate to the “Who We Are” menu, then choose your discipline for a complete list of divisional staff.
Looking forward, updates will be made to the Alpine and Snowboard Exam Task DVDs. We will also be adding additional resources and links to training aids which will be useful in your day to day teaching/coaching, and to help you better prepare for your exam. Remember, the exams seem like a long way off but they are coming up quickly, so get ready.
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