5 Yoga poses that are a must for winter athletes

Most of us love heading to the snowcapped mountains for our vacations and spend our time trying out various snow activities like Skiing, Snowboarding, etc. But without proper preparation, snow activities can be difficult to handle and can leave you drained of energy in just a few minutes. So how do you make sure that for the next vacation, you are all fit to take on your favorite activities without dreading the after effects?

Just practice these 5 yoga steps before your vacation or on a regular basis and see the results for yourself.

Sidebending Mountain Pose

This pose helps in toning your abdominal muscles which are prone to become tight due to lack of exercise making them lose their flexibility to make sudden turns and twists which are a part and parcel of most of the winter activities.

How to Perform: Stand straight with your legs a little apart. Inhale and raise your hands above your head and clasp your wrist with your other hand. Now exhale and bent sidewise while facing forwards. Hold this position for some time and then switch sides.

Sidebending Mountain Pose

Cobra Pose

This is one of the best ways to stretch your abdominals and also a great way to open up your chest which helps in improving your posture.

How to perform: With your face downwards and your forearms on the ground making sure that your elbows are beneath your shoulders, place both your hands underneath your shoulder and pull up, taking your body away from the ground. Make sure you stretch your neck as high as possible. Hold this position for a few minutes and take a few deep breaths. Come back to the ground while exhaling. Still confused? See video below.

Squats

This yoga asana helps you in building your thigh and knee muscles which are prone to most damage in an extremely chilly weather.

How to perform: Inhale and push your legs apart making sure your knees are facing in your toe’s direction and not inwards. Stretch your hand in front of you or above your head. Hold this position for some time and then exhale and go back to your original position.

Squats

Reclining Big Toe Pose

As we know that our hamstrings tend to tighten up frequently and this could limit your freedom of movement which might lead to lower back pains and knee injuries, this pose helps in loosening of your hamstrings so you don’t end up in pain after a performing a winter sport.

How to Perform: Lie back down on the floor with your both legs straight so that your toes are pointing upwards. Raise one leg up and hold onto the back of your thigh or hold the raised leg’s toe. Make sure you relax and not keep it straight if your legs start shaking. Ease it a little and you may even bend your knees a little for the initial sessions. Hold this position for 1-3 minutes.

Reclining Big Toe Pose

Downward Facing Dog

This pose helps in strengthening your wrists, arms, and shoulders. Letting your ankles drop towards the floor also helps in stretching your calves and hamstrings.

How to perform: Get on the floor on all fours while stretching your arms and relaxing your upper back between the shoulder blades. Keeping your knees bent, exhale and raise your knees and hips up so that you form a straight line with your back and arms. Let your head hang down and relax your neck. Take deep breaths and hold this position for 5 long breaths. Then slowly exhale and ease yourself back to your original position.

Here’s how it’s done

Lord of the Cosmic Dance Pose

Lord of the Cosmic Dance Pose This balancing back bend cultivates openheartedness and poise—and helps you uncover your inner radiance.

According to tradition, hatha yoga postures were first practiced spontaneously by sages during meditation. They named some poses for their resemblance to animals or natural phenomena such as trees or mountains. Other poses, suggesting more esoteric and symbolic meaning were named after ages and Hindu deities.

hatha yoga postures

Natarajasana is of the latter type—it’s named after Nataraja, the mythological “royal dancer” depicted in Indian iconography as a graceful figure with one leg lifted in dance, surrounded by a circle of flames. In Indian philosophy, Nataraja represents the dancing form of Lord Shiva, the all-pervasive Supreme Consciousness, who playfully and blissfully dances the entire universe into existence.

Natarajasana is a standing pose, a back bend, and a balancing pose all in one, so it has great physical benefits. The beginner’s version builds leg strength, opens the shoulders and chest, and enhances inner steadiness and poise. Natarajasana also provides a wonderful psychological lift. The name Shiva literally means “benign” or “noble.” Shiva, who is supreme goodness itself, is the reality that underlies all creation. So each time you practice Natarajasana, the pose can remind you of your own innate goodness.

To perform Natarajasana, first, stand tall with your feet close together. Take a breath and soften your skin and muscles. Relax your face and tongue, so you begin your posture with a lessening of self-will. Keeping a quality of soft inner expansion, hug the muscles of your legs and hips to the bones. With your legs strong and stable, balance on your right leg and bend your left knee behind you. Take hold of the left foot with your left hand. If this is difficult, hook a belt around your foot.

Square your hips to the front and slowly bend forward from the top of the right leg. Lift your chest and draw your shoulders back. Stretch your right arm out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Looking straight ahead, stretch your left leg up behind you, so the foot is raised to the height of the right hand. Turn the top of the left thigh in and roll the pelvis down to level the hips. Then draw the tailbone down and in. Keeping the pelvis and legs steady, turn the chest to the right until it is square to the front.

Natarajasana

Take five slow breaths. With each inhalation draw the heart forward and up and extend the back foot up and away from the pelvis. With each exhalation soften your inner organs and melt into a quiet, soothing state of mind. At the end of the fifth exhalation, bring your torso more upright, then slowly release the left foot. Mindfully reset the feet close to each other. Then balance on the other leg and do the pose again for five Slow breaths.

After performing Natarajasana on both sides, pause and contemplate the 5 holism reflected in the form of the pose. In traditional Indian iconography, the dancing Nataraja symbolizes the five active functions of Supreme Consciousness—creation, preservation, dissolution, concealment, and revelation—which play throughout the universe every moment. Each gesture of the limbs represents part of this fivefold creative dance. The same symbolism can be extended to the yoga pose.

Traditionally, the left arm of Natarajasana represents creative action in the world, and the back arm, dissolution or reabsorption of the creation back into the original Absolute. In Indian philosophy, the light of creation and the darkness of dissolution are considered equally valuable. To reflect this truth while performing Natarajasana, attempt to bring the hands to the same height.

The front arm also represents the power that sustains and maintains creation. Classically this power is symbolized by changing the position of the front hand so that the wrist flexes back and the palm of the hand shines forward. This hand position is called Abhaya mudra, or the gesture of fearlessness, whispering to us “Don’t worry, it’s all just a cosmic dance.”

The back arm, which is difficult to see when performing the pose, also represents the concealing nature of Shiva. Shiva conceals and limits his omnipotent and eternal nature by veiling universal divine consciousness in an endless variety of physical bodies. In every hatha yoga posture, we experience some physical limits in flexibility, strength, stamina, or balance. Cloaked in our physical body, we forget our divine heritage.

Watch this video for detailed information on this:

The standing leg of Natarajasana represents the power of constant remembrance that keeps the demon of forgetfulness underfoot. The pose teaches us to be grounded in the knowledge that, as supreme consciousness, we are essentially pure, worthy, and complete.

The uplifted or “dancing” leg represents the divine grace of supreme consciousness, which descends to lift the veil of ignorance from our inner vision. In the pose, we may feel a tremendous inner expansion of power, radiance, and freedom. This is the magic of divine grace revealing your true unlimited inner Self.

From Natarajasana we learn directly that we are a microcosmic expression of the fivefold creative power of universal consciousness. When getting into the pose, we create; when balancing, we maintain our creation; when coming out of it, we dissolve our creation. While struggling in the pose, we feel how our omnipotent nature is concealed. And yet when we have a breakthrough, we experience the revelation of our true nature—expansive, scintillating supreme consciousness full of goodness.

This article appeared in the January/February 1998 issue of Yoga Journal and is reprinted here with their permission.

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