The “core” has become a buzz word in the fitness world in the last 20 years. I am not here to tell you to do sit ups to get a six pack, but to give you a little more understanding of how your core works in relation to skiing and snowboarding. When referring to core strength, I include the muscles that run from the neck, down through the torso, through the pelvic floor, down the inner thighs, all the way to the arches of your feet. You’re whole body is part of this core strength, not just you ‘abs’. There are many yoga poses that help to build this core strength, but are most effective when done with stability and ease. Some of these poses include Plank, Chatarunga, Side Plank, Tadasana (Mountain Pose), and many others.
Doing these poses with stability and ease to me means while being in the pose, being able to breath fluid, full breaths, there being a softness to your body, the correct muscle group are being used, no compensations are happening, no bracing, no gripping, no grunting, just calm, relaxed ease. To get to a place where one can maintain this ease while in a challenging pose, it is best to find this ease in a more simple pose first, then build stamina around it.
If you consider the skeletal structure through the torso you have the spine running up the back body. At the top end joined to the spine is the ribcage, the shoulder girdle and from there is attached the arm bones and head. At the bottom end of the spine is the pelvic girdle, and attached to the pelvis are the leg bones. I like to think of the pelvic girdle, and the rib cage, as two buckets, with their open ends facing each other, both attached to the spine. When these two buckets are aligned with each other, and the spine is neutral, when load is added, the inner core muscles (from head to toe) can naturally engage.
If these buckets are not aligned, ie you are slumped forward or arching through the lower back, then when load is added, lots of other external power muscles has to turn on, creating gripping, bracing, breath holding, compensations, pain and fatigue.
Therefore, it is worth exploring and understanding the alignment of these “buckets”, so you can begin to connect with your true inner core. If you can find alignment and ease on the yoga mat, you are much more likely to be able to find it on your skis and snowboard, leading to you riding with full fluid breaths, ease of movement, a connection to your inner strength, reducing gripping, bracing and compensations and way less pain and fatigue. That is how I want to ride for sure.
Below I have included some simple exercises you can do to connect to this pelvic alignment, and strengthen your deep, organic core.
Reclined Leg Lifts
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Lengthen your spine from the tail bone to the crown of the head, creating space between each vertebrae. Bring your attention to your rib cage, play with it’s tilt and movement by rocking it back lifting up through the lower ribs, then rocking it forward by dropping the lower ribs and allowing the shoulders to come forward. Then allow your rib cage to come to a neutral position between these extremes, resting easy on the floor. Now bring your attention to your pelvic girdle, and do the same then, playing with the tilt, then allow your pelvis to also sit neutrally. Finding your two “buckets” aligned
Your lower back will likely not be flat against the floor, but you will find a small gap. Begin to observe your breath, and notice if you are able to find it to be long, balanced, easy and drawn deep into your belly. See if you notice a feeling of expansiveness through your whole torso as you inhale, and a softening through your whole body as you exhale.
On your next inhale, bring your right knee up into the air, allowing it to hover over your right hip, with a 90 degrees at your hip and knee. Notice if your torso or pelvis shift, attempting to keep the body stable as you lift and hold the leg. Then notice if your breath is still flowing and expanding, if your pelvic girdle and rib cage are still aligned, that you still have that small gap below your lower back. Lower your leg on an exhale, finding your body stable as you do. Repeat on the other side.
If you can find this with ease, try lifting one leg up, holding there, then lifting the other and holding both, keep holding as long as you don’t loose your ease. Keep coming back to your breath, as soon as you hold it, or consciously squeeze or grip, you are no longer at ease. What we are doing here is building deepinner core strength from a place of function and ease, so you can connect to it as you drop into your favourite chute this winter, and ride like a pro.
Stay tuned for more bio mechanics, function and trainings including short videos to have you riding your best this winter.